Sarah Cooney’s paintings orchestrate colour, texture and lyrical gesture, extending a vocabulary of marks, motifs and rhythms that echo across bodies of works whilst playing with the possibilities of paint. The surfaces of her paintings evidence frenetic revisions and reworkings alongside traces of provisional marks rubbed away in a process of sense making. Cooney describes the resulting works as ‘slow paintings that require of their audience a close up and considered way of looking’ necessitate a closer inspection of the paintings’ surface.
Sarah Dunn revels in the joys of spotting. Her work is about the act of looking, of finding momentary relish in observation. It celebrates that point of recognition where something is seen and becomes banked in memory — a sense of capture before disappearance, a soft quality, a grasping of something already gone. For her ‘the birds are always there, there is always a bird there … The bird is about the approach to looking, the way a bird carries the eye and punctuates and takes the eye to different points within the landscape, to points you probably wouldn’t look at unless the bird moved there.’ Through the mimicry of surfaces, Dunn seeks-out connections between ideas, between moments, between the colours of ideas, between the textures of the moments and the feelings that those moments generate. The resulting work carries these prompts into three dimensions and new materials, re-assembling them like a Bower bird.
Ellen Ranson’s work possesses the energy and vigour that is representative of the arrogance and ego commonly associated with male artists, whilst concentrating a desire for greater recognition and a rebalancing of female representation and voices within abstract painting. Adding to the growing conversation around reclaiming and rearticulating women’s voices, her paintings harness imagery taken from the artist’s everyday experiences, patriarchal pasts and presents, memories, surroundings, ancient landscapes and other sources which are manipulated and abstracted, through a seemingly digital process, resulting in a handmade abstraction. The interrogation of colour, layering, motif, pattern and application of paint simultaneously creates new environments and reflections on the world around us.
The exhibition continues a core thread in the Gallery North programme in celebrating the work of artists who studied at Northumbria University who continue to live and work in the region. Sarah Cooney (2005) and Ellen Ranson (2018) both graduated with BA (Hons) Fine Art from Northumbria University and are previous winners of the John Crisp Prize for Innovative work in Painting.