Bringing themes of literature, time and stillness to her latest series of figurative paintings, artist Nancy Cadogan's work represents traditional domestic scenes and reminds us of the often-forgotten joyfulness of solitude.
On show from 13 June at Gillian Jason in London, The Still Point celebrates the beauty of the ordinary through a female gaze, which is poignant in itself, given the gallery is the UK's first female-focused art space.
The exhibited works champion the "simplicity and beauty of the ordinary" and express the importance of "taking a moment" from the perspective of women. They consider the therapeutic qualities of being by oneself and doing what we please. "After the two years we have all had, we have learned how powerful it is for one's mental health to be quiet and indulge in solitude," says Nancy. Therefore, the viewer is encouraged to engage in mindful contemplation of each canvas and explore how we physically inhabit space whilst our thoughts travel through places, things, and memories.
Looking at the influence of literature in Cadogan's practice, we see the depiction of books in her paintings as symbols of this quiet contemplation. "It's the idea of the body being still and the mind being completely free," she adds. Hence, the works are peaceful, colourful, and carefully orchestrated to create a sense of harmony and encourage the mind to wander on a journey. Each work is a snapshot if you will. A form of visual haiku where the ordinary takes on an indefinable significance, evoking sensory moments of awareness with poetic sentiment.
Ethereal and calming, the artworks are cropped scenes of everyday life, all in a carefully chosen colour palette of pinks, bottle greens or shadowy blue light. There are stories told that reveal so much more than the stillness of each character. From the female figure in the company of her own reflection to the transient sunlight captured in a glass vase, the artist invites us into worlds that can be felt but not always seen. Open books suggest a story about to be told or yet to be written. It's a fascinating space between here and there, then and now, open and closed – all woven throughout her series and can perhaps be best put into words through the TS Eliot's poem that inspired the title of the solo show: "Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards, Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point."
This latest collection follows Cadogan's successful 2019 show, Mind Zero, at the Saatchi Gallery, hailed "as Heaven on a canvas" by the Evening Standard. It also happened to signal a new direction for the artist, which saw her work shift from observational looking and perspective, to painting from the imagination – a process she admits has been "more challenging but also rewarding". Her development towards colour and movement has "enabled her to explore and create a more sensory experience that collapses boundaries between reality and the imagined…and rewards those who look deeply with care".