Lyrical Abstraction of the Day: Arlene Isbister

Painting by Arlene Isbister

Painting by Arlene Isbister. Photo: Richard Jobson


This painting, whose title I don’t know,  is by Arlene Isbister, an artist from the Orkney Islands in Scotland.   I wanted to know more about her,  but despite much Googling, I could not find any other photos of her work, except these:

Painting by Arlene Isbister, title unknown

From Red (Sister)by Arlene Isbister. Wax, acrylic on canvas. Photo: Edinburgh City Council

Triple Goddess by Arlene Isbister

Triple Goddess by Arlene Isbister. Wax, acrylic on canvas. Photo credit: Aberdeen Art Gallery

The paintings intrigue me.  They are definitely lyrical, but with a lot of gritty texture.  The cloudlike movement of the main color masses is pierced by random splatterings and scratchings.  There is a delicacy here, but that doesn’t mean weakness.  At least not to me.

What snide comments by critic Alan Woods in the Glasgow Herald:  “Isbister’s colors are a little pretty for an artist hankering after primal imagery; this is a very genteel primitism”.   He’s accusing her of being too girly, basically.  Misogynist wanker.   I need to do a post about gender differences in the way color is perceived and how they cause the work of women artists to be negatively judged by predominantly male art critics.

I ended up finding about her house than her career.  Sounds like a very interesting house though:  “Their traditional Orkney chair was picked up from the officers’ mess at a wartime aerodrome on the island. Made from salvaged wood and woven oat straw, it has none of the clumsiness we associate with salvaged furniture, and the couple love the fact that its patinas come from generations of use.”   No photo of it, unfortunately.  The article in the Guardian is based on a book called The Scottish House by Ianthe Ruthven,  published by Collins & Brown.

the Orkney island of Rousay

the Orkney island of Rousay

This article also makes me think it would not be a good idea to indulge my secret daydream of going back to my maternal ancestors’ home in the Hebrides to live and paint, because every other islander is an artist.    Some artists would like having lots of fellow artists around, but I think whenever there’s too much of anything in one place, people start resenting each other.  Maybe it’s just me, but I need my space.  I kind of like being the only English speaking person, the only artist, the only American in the middle of my nowhere.  I like being singular.

Kisimul Castle, Barra, Outer Hebrides

This was once home.

I’d love to go visit for a while, though.

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