by Katrina Man
with quotations from Edith Dormandy
“A good painting of, say, a tree is completely paint and completely tree. That is what I seek to achieve in a painting. Sometimes I succeed.”
Edith’s representational painting practice is an ever-evolving investigation, where painful truths and tenderness coexist amongst other contradictions on and in the painted surface. With each piece you feel that she is probing something, thrashing out an idea or question on the paper or canvas. Edith’s practice largely comprises two strands of work: her more concept-led works, consisting of more personally and intellectually driven work, and her atelier style paintings, typically portraits. The atelier style works enable Edith to hone her craft which facilitates the execution of her concept-led works, the central focus of her practice.
“I do representational painting for a combination of fundamental and circumstantial reasons. The fundamental reasons are a belief in the sanctity of the material world and a belief in ignorance.”
The core themes of Edith’s practice demand intense scrutiny and care from the artist and viewer: loss, mourning, alienation, nature, history (interweaving family history with global political history), knowledge production and colonialism. Through her investigation in paint of these interconnected themes emerge varied subject matter. There are watercolours of photographs and objects from family archives, for example ‘Parade Ground’ (2019) created from a photograph from her grandfather’s time growing up in India during colonial rule. Other works grapple with humanity’s increasing alienation from and desire for control over the ‘natural’ world around us, for example the ‘Observer’s Book of Trees’ series (2020).
“My work is often a form of mourning. Sometimes the losses mourned are personal; sometimes it is more to do with mourning the traumatic separation of mind and matter which manifests as alienation from our bodies, from nature, and from each other. These separations are often a result of systemic violence.”
In 2018, Edith created her first blue watercolour works, a body of work which she continues to develop. This began with the ‘Bones’ series (2018), a group of watercolours each depicting a single bone from a collection owned by her grandmother who was a doctor. Here, key motifs come to the fore. Firstly, an interrogation of her family history, using inherited objects as the source material. Secondly, a preoccupation with the contradictions inherent in life, with the bones here being symbols of death whilst also essential material elements of life. Thirdly, a sustained use of the materials of water and ultramarine blue pigment.
“I think there is an inherent melancholy in the way a representational painting yearns towards the thing it represents without ever truly uniting with it. But because making the painting is an act of participation in our shared materiality, it is also a healing process, embedding me in the world of matter and suturing the wound between mind and body.”
Edith is interested in making objects as well as images in her practice. This is clear from the decisions around materiality in her works. Techniques such as the drips in the ‘Observer’s Book of Trees’ paintings (2020) and the textured overworking of the surface in ‘Mujahadeen’ (2019), underscore the physical materiality of the works and undercut any notion of them being simply images. This objecthood is highlighted most explicitly in the 'Brooke Bond Bird Portrait Series' (2020). A collection of 50 small and delicate paintings of birds in white paint on white paper presented in a bespoke box, this series has been created as an object to be handled, explored and owned. Emphasised by the box display, Edith addresses the problematic issues of collecting, power and the legacies of colonialism through a reinterpretation of the historic collecting of Brooke Bond tea company cards depicting ‘British birds’ painted by C.F. Tunnicliffe.
Throughout her practice, Edith examines how the personal and the political coalesce. As her work has developed, and continues to evolve, we see this examination progress outwards, from an investigation of the body, including her body, to the outward exploration of the bodies, identities, histories and environments from which that body was born and with which it continues to coexist.
Upcoming 2022, Lookers!, Islington Art Factory
Upcoming TBC, Untitled, solo show, Brompton Cemetery Chapel
2021, The Big Studio Art Sale, The Arc Centre, London
2021, Contemporary Portraits, Fronteer Gallery, Sheffield
2020, Solskifte, Online Exhibition https://www.solskifteexhibition.com
2020, RWS Contemporary Watercolour Competition, Bankside Gallery, Southwark
2019-2020, ARC 14th Salon, MEAM, Barcelona and Sotheby’s NY
2019, She London with Art for Cure, Bankside Gallery, Southwark
2019, Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 207th Exhibition, The Mall Galleries
2017, BODS, Safe Houses, Peckham
2017, Arcana, The Crypt Gallery, St Pancras Church
2016, Ham Sweet Ham, 2 person show, joint with Jake Lamerton
2016, Metamorphosis, UCLU Art Society Show, The Crypt Gallery, St Pancras Church
2015, Working Men’s College Show, Camden Working Men’s College
2015, Escape, UCLU Art Society Show, The Gallery on the Corner
2014, Destruction Day, UCLU Art Society Show, UCL Portico and Main Quad
2014, LOST Teaser, Please do not not touch, Secret Location
2014, Alchemy, UCLU Art Society Show, St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church
Selected Prizes, Scholarships and Residencies
2022 (Upcoming) High House Residency
2020 Royal Watercolour Society Recent Graduate Award
2019 2 x ARC Purchase Awards in the 14th Annual Salon
2018 ARC 1st Prize scholarship https://www.artrenewal.org/Scholarship/Entrant/188
2016-2020: Fine Art Diploma, The London Atelier of Representational Art
2013-2016: BA Hons History of Art, University College London
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