I was lucky enough to visit Patty Boonstra’s new exhibition in a quiet lull at the Loft Gallery, in between other visitors, so I had the time and space to absorb and contemplate and really look at Patty’s work.
This exhibition looks back on forty years of making and creating by the artist and the Loft is a small space, so I was a bit concerned that I would be overwhelmed, that the space would be so full that I wouldn’t be able to get the measure of the work, but those concerns were not justified in the slightest. Patty has managed to distil a lengthy career beautifully. You know it is the tip of the iceberg but the curation allows the work to breathe.
The first thing that strikes me is that Patty absolutely excels at technique. Her linocut prints, her drawing, her use of line are exceptional. There are no wasted marks. “Figure III” from 1980, a drypoint etching, perfectly gives a sense of the figure in a handful of lines. It is truly beautiful.
But technique is nothing without the creativity, drive and motivation to explore and share thoughts and ideas, and Patty is also great at knowing which medium best suits what it is she wants to share. A more recent exploration of linocut printmaking has lent itself beautifully and starkly to a series of work called “Ambiguity”, from 2018, which has immense subtlety as well as being very striking in its intense black and white. Using the symbolism of ‘See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ which we are all accustomed to seeing, the works make the viewer look more purposefully at the detail and the meaning behind them. Why is it ambiguous? What are the clues? As viewers, we will all come away with different ideas and responses to the question, and this is what should happen. The work, whilst exploring notions of truth and justice, does not lecture; it provides a space to think.
The series ‘Taboo Or Not Taboo’ from 2019 takes life drawings made as a student and reinterprets them by adding clothing, reflecting the debate around nudity in art. It explores changes in attitude over time, to nudity and appropriateness. Creating images that remind me of paper dolls that you clothe with paper dresses that I played with as a child, the work, again, is not lecturing or dictating the viewer’s response, it isn’t saying whether the debate is justified or not, or which side of the argument the artist has ended up on; it simply responds to it and leaves you to come to your own conclusions.
It is a rare luxury to see work made over a forty year career in one space, when all of Patty’s Orkney based exhibitions in the past few years have focused on themed series. I encourage you to head to the Loft Gallery and take up the opportunity to do so, before the exhibition finishes on 30 June. To see the breadth of work but clearly see the themes and interests that run through a whole career is a special thing indeed.
Clare Gee, June 2023
Patty Boonstra ‘Looking Back – Artworks of a considered self’
The Workshop and Loft Gallery, St Margaret”s Hope
3 June to 30 June 2023, Tuesday – Saturday 10am to 5pm