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Naomi Alexander painting

‘Drawing, above all else, is a way of seeing and undoubtedly it is one of Naomi Alexander’s great strengths.’

Professor Ken Howard OBE RA
  Naomi with her Leonberger, Potemkin, in her studio, 2015  

Selected Reviews/Commentaries on Naomi's Work:

'...The studio paintings, both her own and those of other artist friends in whose studios she has also worked at one time or another – notably Paula Rego and Ken Howard – are a rather different story again – quiet, light-filled professional spaces. In many, she includes herself, either directly or as a reflection in a mirror, but even so they become intimate and contemplative, like that depicting her own studio, with its rackety old whitepainted boudoir cupboard covered with reference books, a jar of flowers, its mirror reflecting the plethora of pictures hanging on the walls around.

We somehow know her through this simplicity and open directness. As with the world of feeling and memory which the poet dissects into words, and then reconstructs, so with these interiors in which Naomi Alexander allows objects and accumulations to give shape and meaning to her own understandings of her life – a process of quiet and cumulative discovery.'

Nicholas Usherwood 2015
Author, Editor, Journalist and Curator

'Naomi Alexander puts down what she sees into her sketchbook with watercolour or pencil, directly and unaffectedly. With the utmost economy of means, we get the story.

On her travels she accumulates images of deserts, parks, gardens, homes and people. She brings them all back to the studio where they can live. They lie about in her sketchbooks, sometimes being useful, sometimes even making it into her pictures- but more often the initial candid gaze gives way to a more knowing look…

In the large pictures, the difficulties ol composition. daily routine and sluggish effort do not permit such unguarded spontaneity. In these pictures we witness the accumulated experience of a lifetime - that baggage which takes up so much room and weighs a ton. Here, the streaky paint conveys the threatening environment and the passing of time: little girls push against a barrage of solid middle-aged bodies or play at being ghosts in an already haunted garden.

The good girl stares out from a paddling pool at the spreading shadow of a scarecrow.'

Paula Rego 1997

'Though she is in many obvious ways a very painterly painter, it seems to me that everything in Naomi Alexander’s work comes down basically to draughtsmanship. It is not only that she has a natural understanding of how to capture the shape and solidity of objects and people in line, but that her compositions themselves are always dictated by a strong instinct for graphic form. These days - and perhaps especially in Britain - we frequently mistrust such evidences in a painter, tending to dismiss him or her as an illustrator merely. Perhaps it is an inveterate romanticism in British taste, which inevitably associates the act of painting with a lot of flashy brushwork and "temperamental" flinging-about of paint.

In comparison with such conventional notions, Alexander’s paint is always firmly under control. But after all, so it should be. It has always been said that the trouble with American Method acting was that when the Actors’ Studio was set up in New York, only Stanislavsky’s first book, An Actor Prepares, had been translated into English, so that the inventors of the Method remained blissfully ignorant of later writings wherein the Russian director explained what the actor should do with his psychological raw material once he had prepared it. In the same way, the British art world has felt, at least since Turner’s later developments were understood and accepted, that "finish" was somehow insincere, mitigating as it did raw impact of the initial conception.

Alexander’s art, in contrast, places proper weight on the fundamental brainwork of painting. Since she has taken to exhibiting her on-the-spot watercolours and even on occasion preparatory pencil sketches, such as those for the series of oil paintings of Chatsworth attics where she was invited by the Duke of Devonshire, we are able to see exactly the roles played by instinct and calculation in her most finished work, The Chatsworth sketches are magical in their evocation of these neglected, private spaces: all the atmospheric essentials are there, captured in a moment. To compare them with the ultimate paintings that result is, however, like comparing chalk with cheese. It helps one to understand why the first critic of Monet were so puzzled by his, so-called "Impressions" of dawn and dusk: they were undoubtedly vivid and immediate, but where was the fundamental brainwork?

Now, at least, we see the separate advantages and merits of both approaches without feeling it incumbent on us to choose between them. A drawing is a drawing, and a painting is a painting, quite different phenomena. And somewhere between them comes the watercolour, a form of painting which retains the immediacy of a drawing. Certainly Alexander’s do: these thumbnail sketches of people bathing on sparsely populated beaches have all the lightness and humour and humanity of the moment as it flies. It is illuminating to compare these pieces with the larger-scale oil paintings which eventuate from the same body of observations.'

John Russell Taylor 2005
Art Critic for The Times

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