Essay Never Not. Alison Bartley


The notion of deep diving resonates in Marie Le Lievre’s new exhibition - both formally in terms of her richly layered oil and graphite surfaces, and conceptually with what she is aiming to do with her painting in representing psychological states.

With her blue black ‘tomes’ paintings, the metaphor of diving is almost literal with a sense of snorkelling and immersion in deep seductive, mysterious pools amidst waving fronds of seaweed. Paint splatters extend the sense of water splashing and movement between dark and light.


Yet these are just suggestions, as Le Lievre is not seeking to represent the world as we see it. Her work, existing in the space between what is seen and what is felt, has been linked to that of the famous 20th century American abstract painter Agnes Martin, not for what is painted, but rather in terms of the parallels in looking to represent a distinctive female sensibility, feelings, interior states, self-awareness and a sense of the spiritual. At the same time, it is knowing of art history and outward-looking seeking an emotional response in the viewer


Le Lievre’s titles serve to reveal a system of classification, her ascribing of archaeological typologies according the characteristics of works. We see these typologies run like themes through her practice and successive exhibitions. Thus we have the ‘Tomes’; the ‘Notes’ where dense graphite drawing obscures much of the oil underpainting; the ‘Trays’ with their assemblages and here in Wellington for the first time ‘Shields’, more minimal colour field backgrounds with strong horizontal and/or vertical contrasting swathes marking the surface, suggesting clannish protection devices and armoury.


There is also a sense of embodiment of what has been called The New Sincerity – a move across all the arts rejecting ironic detachment for a more supportive and direct emotional engagement, and an embrace of diversity. Conceptualised in the 1990s, the new sincerity has, in covid times, encountered renewed interest: as football coach Ted Lasso says in the hit eponymous TV series, which has been linked to the new sincerity movement, it’s not about winning and losing but about each person being the best they can be.



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