The Distance Between Us: New Works by Ruby Swinney
A few weeks back we were lucky to visit The Distance Between Us, Ruby Swinney's international solo debut that is on view until the end of the week at Akinci Gallery in Amsterdam. Comprising a series of seemingly continuing and narrative-rich images, these semi-recognizable and timeless landscapes tend to transport the viewer into a parallel universe in which they might exist.
At the first sight, Swinney's work appears to be a series of overexposed photographs which is transforming the whole body of work into somewhat of imaginary travel documentation. Although based on her own photographs, the images we're seeing are actually constructed, non-existing spaces built from different elements of actual locations. And it's the realness of those individual elements that makes these sublime and fictional sites appear earthly and believable, and therefore intriguing to the eye. Using excessive bright light or overexposure to seamlessly combine these different locations into one, the images earn an even more arresting, cinematic appearance. This effect is further underlined with the distinctive technique which uses the removal of oil paint off transparent surfaces like silk or tracing paper. With each piece using a different dominating color, such as rusted purple, raspberry, green teal, or blue, the entire presentation feels exceptionally colorful and vibrant, although featuring only monochromatic visuals.
Along with unusual formats such as squares or elongated rectangles, Swinney is regularly using multi-panel structures to intensify the size and appearance of the scenes she's portraying. This approach also pushes forward her interest in portraying the architectural elements as well as the landscape structures and flora. Further on, such an approach navigates the viewer through the presentation and culminates with the imposing 6-panel piece Concerning Plants. With a ghost-like figure in the middle of a symmetrical scene and additional ones mirroring on each side of the arresting setting, this grandiose work reveals the artist's unorthodox approach to painting. Although present in every image, her human subjects are merely faceless, genderless, ageless silhouettes, contributing to the ambiguity of the constructed sites. Depicted using a method that allows the artist to emphasize the contrast between the white, negative space and the painted sections, they reveal the fact that her technique is more influenced by printmaking rather than traditional painting. Preferring tiny cotton buds over brushes Swinney's practice is revolving around the removal of paint rather than its application, which conceptually contributes to the creation of the distance between the viewer and the image. —Sasha Bogojev