Coasting (Tome); West Coast (Tome),
2016 Oil on canvas
1520 x 1670mm ea.

Group Show #54
Jonathan Smart Gallery, Christchurch

New Zealand artist Marie Le Lievre understands the material of paint. She is an empathetic and instinctive colourist. The scale of the paintings ranges from domestic and intimate, to the heroic. In the latter especially, the effect is oceanic, and sublime in the Romantic sense – the viewer enters the painting. The eye is attracted to all the little complexities and puncta of interest: the complex patterns of textural rippling, the emergent islands of opacity, and the almost Rothko-like ambiguous fades. There is, perhaps, a closer relationship with the lyrical abstraction of European Tachisme than the action bravura of American Abstract Expressionism.

The paint is poured, layered, worked by hand, and tempered. The intended effect is that which Baldassare Castiglione in his Il Cortegiano (1528) termed Sprezzatura: “a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it.” – although the artist clearly wants us to see this defensive irony as the distancing mechanism of an unreliable narrator. There are sufficient signposts to suggest the effort and toil behind the implied randomness. This means that the work has many connotations, tension between reality and abstraction, chaos and control and ultimately defies final analysis.
- Andrew Paul Wood. 2012