Susan Fynes, whose work is currently showing at the blackShed Gallery in Robertsbridge describes herself as predominantly a system based artist but, looking at her work last night, I wondered whether that emphasis might slowly be changing. Fynes was in the year below me on the Brighton MA Fine Art course and impressed everybody by her painstaking geometric compositions. You would be forgiven for wondering whether they might be computer generated, but there is no technology involved. Amazingly, they are all done by hand in pencil and acrylic paint. The larger ones, which can measure 50 inches square, can take months to complete.
If like me, your working habits tend towards messiness, you cannot help but be awed by the precision, the care and concentration needed. Imagine having just a few tiny triangles to complete, when you knock over your cup of coffee, or you shift the paper to fill in another area before noticing that your thumb has picked up a liberal coating of yellow paint. Fynes clearly has the self discipline to avoid such disasters and to keep track of which colour comes next. Stand in front of some of the painting and you can sense that there is a system in place but try to work out the code and you are likely to be puzzled.
Take the work above, one of a series of three in the exhibition; you sense that the pattern is not random; distinct bands appear out of the complexity but your eyes are likely to go squint before you work out whether there is a repeat pattern let alone what it might be. In fact, the answer lies in the title: May You Be Free From Suffering. Fynes told me this phrase is repeated in the work and that each letter has its own code, but, even knowing this, I cannot trace out the mantra in the painting or in either of its companions, May You Be Well, or May You Be Happy. But I liked the idea of the good wishes being woven into her works.
Much of Fynes’ work has this spiritual element; she considers herself a Buddhist. Increasingly, she appears to be allowing herself a freer rein in the way this spirituality is portrayed..In Faith, shown below, there was no formula,though oddly it looked as though there might have been one. In fact, the process was intuitive and started with filling in triangles of one colour and grew from there.
Emerging too are more fluid pieces where squares and triangles give way to curves and the resultant bands appear to move and vibrate.
In the exhibition there were some pieces which did not appear to rely on process at all, like this perfect little drawing which was sold even before the private view,
and this larger piece which is clearly a free composition.
It will be interesting to see whether, in future, works with no underlying grid slowly get larger and larger.With the increase in size; the technical challenges must surely grow. In the early days, she told me, she used to cover up part of the work to concentrate on the area on which she was working. These days, with the looser interpretation, it is vital for her to be able to see the whole composition all the time, even if it increases the work’s vulnerability to the notorious gravity-defying properties of paint.
Susan Fynes is showing at the Blackshed Gallery,Russet Farm, Redlands Lane, Robertsbridge
East Sussex, TN32 5N Robertsbridge, until 3 September.