British artist Avis Newman’s drawings and large unstretched canvases document her contemplative and intuitive investigation of the subconscious. Her works are inspired by Freudian dream theory, and are reminiscent of the Lascaux Cave Paintings.
Newman’s drawings address the private events of her daily life, and the subconscious reactions that they trigger. These reactions become subjects in Newman’s drawings which split and fuse her identity and desires. In Newman’s The Day’s Residues (1981-82), she employs Sigmund Freud’s term for the seemingly small events which become released and enlarged in our dreams. Freud identified this act of enlargement as subconscious desire rising to dominate our sleeping unconscious minds. These drawings are evidence of Newman’s effort to expose and understand subconscious desire, within herself and within all those who encounter her work.
Lassitudes before words and the related works investigate subconscious desire and expression in large unstretched canvases. When installed, these canvass are peripherally enveloping, placing the viewer within the work and the work within the viewer both physically and perceptually. Their size demands that they be seen from a distance yet their details require close inspection. Thus the roles and the distances that artist as communicator and viewer as receiver traditionally maintain are challenged int hese drawings by involving the viewer in their interpretive “completion.” The drawings are not “finished” until they are percieved and experienced. Thus viewer, image, and artist become merged in a reciprocal exchange of recognition and interpretation, discovery and loss.
Newman’s drawings are contemplative and hesitant, spontaneous and agitated, and are rooted in the conscious acknowledgement of subconscious activity. The transformative results are drawings strewn with her daily expositions: ambient tonal fields, angular forms, and constrained, evocative scratchings. By delving into the subconscious Newman surrenders her csoncious self—her declarative identity is lost in her painterly inquisition.
Minutely rendered lizards and female torsos appear in these works in varying stages of recognition, heightening their symbolic interaction. Newman’s lines meander from lizard to torso, transitioning in the process through states of one or the other, to neither, to both. This act of creation and dissolution references the many polarities with which Newman is concerned: consciousness and unconsciousness; self and other; recognition and ambiguity; death and rebirth. Thus Newman’s initially personal dialogue takes on universal significance. The complex interactions within the world and within ourselves are intuitively and intellectually brought forth in these gritty, provocative, ambitious canvases.