This will be the first solo London exhibition for Prudence Flint at mother’s tankstation, Bethnal Green. Following Prudence’s penchant for linguistic brevity, the exhibition is enigmatically titled; The Call. Who or what calls, or calls upon, whom?
Last time of writing, we had not met Prudence Flint, other than through her work in reproduction, through long-distance Skype conversations – remember those – and/or published interviews. Now we have, as she made what presently seems like the epic journey alongside her paintings (remember travel, remember 20+ hours in a steel can) from their native Melbourne, to Dublin, to attend her remarkable inaugural show. This time she cannot, as Australia is effectively still closed and Melbourne remains subject to strict and regular lockdowns. Skypes have become Zooms, or WhatsApp chats, as over a long and isolated year she slowly made us five new, reflexively separated, splendidly secluded, temporally slowed, paintings: The Call, The Leaving, The Holiday, The New Song, The Lost. In four out five works, a beautifully rendered sole sequestered woman sits on the bed of a minimal interior, a studio apartment, a windowless Auster-like room (?), surrounded by flattened, sharply perspectival space and few objects. The merest hint of doorways (?) in the top right hand corner of each ‘room’.
All/any supposable explanatory theories of temporal applicability in Flint’s paintings are probably/possibly as equally trueas false. And if assessments of either, for veracity or significance, are established from data gathering exercises, or the analysis of such modes of organisation, then let’s catalogue. In five given scenarios; Something may just have happened (projected historical)…Something may be about to happen (predictive future)…Nothing at all is happening (present negational)…Nothing will happen (future prophetic)…Nothing may ever happen (future speculative)…Nothing is going to happen (predictive). Time sits still – perhaps contemplating how some past is more passed than other pasts. And, that at certain points, in certain points of the past, that the more recent past, respectively, was the historical future, until it was also the past. To suggest that time stands still in ‘Flint’, seems way too nounishly active for the passivity of what’s apparently not going on, other than within the implied space – the temporal mechanics – of Flint’s collective protagonists’ heads. We can only say that, at present, we do not know as yet, what might be the collective meaning or significance of these episodes, if we do, given other knowledge that we do not yet possess, we might, in the historical future have to revise our view, as the novel is not yet complete. The whole history, told as a selective story – stories must necessarily be selective – is merely a fragment of an impossibly complete history, otherwise there is an uncomfortable inference of a ‘Divine’ plan and Flint is way too agnostically pragmatic for such.
A stick, punishment rod, hazel switch (?), teachers’ pointer (?), appears in the four interiors, on the bed beside the protagonist, or lurking on the floor. Poised, waiting, slightly threatening. A segment of watermelon – sans seeds, a recurring sort-of detached Punch & Judy head, I don’t know what that thing is, on a plinth-like, bedside table in The Holiday. Maybe a fruit, fancy cake confection, fruit cake perhaps, panic button, hand exercise ball (most probable), or a very early Anish Kapoor sculpture?[v] Nor does the painting look like the ‘holiday’ is going particularly well; the woman’s face buried in her hands, there’s that rod again. Pink laced-up shoes and patterned socks. Orange pleated skirt. Cami. As noted, just a suggestion of an open door in the top right corner. The New Song, has the most exquisitely tactile, fluffy mohair cardigan, draped over the back of a rather severe school-type chair, with a seashell on top of a book on the seat. Book closed. An oval mirror (there’s a name for that sort of mirror, but I’ve forgotten it – Cheval?), standing at ‘the head’ of the bed, and positioned at such an oblique angle that we cannot properly see the thing definitely reflected in it. The perspective is so acute that the woman’s head is also super far away. As light relief (pun intended) here is however, the slightest trace of pale sun filtering in through an unseen window, though the corresponding angle of the shadow cast by the body, onto the bed, doesn’t play ball. Nature is not in accord with human life. Perhaps the window is an artificial ‘gobo’ projection, a trick, an illusion. Hello again Mr. Auster[vi]. Black shoes with white soles and laces, same orange pleated skirt and Cami though. No socks this time.
The Leaving, has the most extensive catalogue of objects; a guitar faced to the wall, like it has just misbehaved – which is unusual – I used to play, so it’s just not the way you would conventionally rest it. You just wouldn’t. A bedside table with ovoid alarm clock, showing 11:00. The lighting would suggest of the AM. But… we are on Flint time… A green carpet off-sets the lime green fluorescent socks and throws forward the red of the slice of watermelon – once again sans seeds, just falling into shadow. Shadow source; uncertain. An eerie pink light comes through the open doorway (?) at the top right of this particular painting, same place as all of the others (?), but this time the door has been hung the other way around. Ambidextrous doors? There is what I first thought looked like a romance novel on the bed, it turns out, however, to be a painted rendering of a favourite photograph of the artist’s late mother at a young age – it is romantic. Beside it? A brown notebook probably? Subject’s hands passively resting on knees. Just like the same figure almost, but not quite, repeated in The Lost. But outdoors…
In the meantime, through remote chats, we have learnt that when Prudence was allowed, by Victorian COVID restrictions, to host and paint directly from live models, that she has regulars, favourites, friends, we now know their names and can now recognise them through distinctive clothing choices – the luminous green socks are a real thing (the dressing choices of the person arriving at the studio is allowed to influence the painting) – or postures, physiques, height, hair length, styles. Invaluable info that affects the understanding of Flint logic. Flogic.
The fifth painting, The Lost, has three figures situated in one of Flint’s characteristically stylised ‘exteriors’ (the difference indicated by what exactly?); the sparse Hills Hoist-type ‘tree’ mounted atop some strange pastel Battenberg dais? (The edges are harder than Flint’s mattresses) but it forms, presents, a bit like a big communal Flint-type bed, angled and perspectively rendered in roughly the same approximate way as to those in her ‘interiors?
Prudence Flint The Call 10th October – 4th December 2021 Opening Frieze London East End Day:
Sunday 10th October 11 am – 6 pm motherstankstation.com
About the Artist
Born Melbourne, 1962, lives and works in Melbourne. Prudence Flint paints around six to seven painstaking oil-on-linen canvases a year that depict an internalised, novelistic world. Ostensibly populated by women, largely indoors, seated, lying down, in stylised pared-down rooms, or occasionally, in simplified outdoor settings, but still architectonic environments; formal gardens, parks, forests. Mostly alone, sometimes in small groups, Flint’s women, mostly, if doing anything, do little, or it appears so. They are dressed, mostly – neat skirts, ankle socks, cashmere sweaters, or underwear; matching, good quality bra and panty sets, sometimes disjunctive, yellow bra, red knickers. Sometimes women are captured washing, or in mid-ablute, showering, inserting contact lenses, brushing hair, sitting thinking or just sitting.
Prudence Flint has worked within the Australian artworld for three decades, steadily arriving at significant national attention, winning numerous prizes and awards, including one of the world’s most valuable painting prizes, (The Doug Moran Prize 2017). And by joining mother’s tankstation in 2019, has only recently begun the journey to the internationalisation of her career. She is accordingly experiencing the critical acclaim due to an exceptional painter whose elegance of execution and originality of subject matter is arguably un-paralleled. Recent solo exhibitions include The Wish, Fine Arts, Sydney (2020); The Visit, mother’s tankstation, Dublin (2019), with notable group exhibitions including ME: An exhibition of Contemporary Self-Portraiture, High Line Nine, New York (2020), Archibald Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2019 and 2018) and MoMu Museum, Antwerp (2222). Prudence Flint will make her debut London solo exhibition with mother’s tankstation in September 2021.