The Drawers - Gertrude Kearns   Commentary written by Julie Oakes

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Abstract (B&W)

A division can be made between the drawings and the paintings in order to clarify the difference between the two while still revealing the common bond strength.
In many of the drawings, although derived from within concrete reality (the saw), the work expresses a characteristic which is not specific to the object. Rather, it pertains to the formal aspect of art that is abstraction and by emphasising the shape, especially of the handle, new associations are made. The obvious and intended association to the bull, as the double grip of the saw handle forms the horns, is inescapable. Yet, this is not a depiction of a bull, but a sympathetic resonance with the qualities of the beast. There are myriad art historical usages of the animal, from the ancient Greeks where Zeus assumes the form of a bull to entice (and eventually rape) Europa to Picasso's repeated use of bulls and bull fights as symbols of virility, rights of passage, violence and war. The bull has been a loaded visual trope.

The dominant size of the paper works with the stark use of black, white and sometimes red supports the aggressive associations as does the fact that the referential object is a saw, a jagged blade, a cutting tool. That the point of menace has been transferred from the blade to the handle furthers the sense of rich layering. 'Handsome' is an unavoidable adjective when describing Gertrude Kearnsí work and 'handsome', being the term most used to denote masculine beauty, strength and vitality; is seductive. These are beautiful, elegant pieces, dignified in bearing and well appointed. They show muscle both in the well defined shapes and the sheer physical scope.

When the saw is no longer evident or other readily available references such as the architectonic leaves the conversation, as in the yellow, blue and black paintings, certain qualities (elegance, virility, confidence and resolve) remain in tact. Without the specific directive, the dynamic between the shapes is less didactic, even veering on playful. There is a sense of abandon and freedom in this brave and ambitious work, as if Kearns has decided to show us her versatility in an abstract language, her accomplishments a declaration of her sure footedness. The magnificence of the work, secure on all levels, intellectual to technical, commands respect.

Copyright © 2007,  Julie Oakes