Ruby Wilkinson, Sun Room
“I have realized that my studio doesn’t let in much sunlight — this giving an explanation as to why I can’t stop painting in yellow. I am simply trying to paint the sun.”
Ruby Wilkinson Monday 2 May 2022
Ruby Wilkinson’s first solo exhibition with Jhana Millers Gallery ‘Sun room’ is an ode to heliophiles: sunseeking somethings and someones. Ruby's once-saturnine hues — dark browns and deep reds — have gradually given way to tones lighter, more ebullient in character: forest greens, light browns and golden-yellows, the last of which make several of her paintings appear to glow from within.
Ruby views these new paintings as an orchestra, an ensemble of feeling. This ensemble of feeling, owes as much to shifts in colour as it does to her painterly gestures, now more open and freer than in previous bodies of work. The older forms of the last few years have loosened to the point of formlessness, giving these new paintings an irrepressible immediacy and spontaneity. Some consist of wisps of overlapping brushstrokes, others slanting swirls or open shapes resembling the letter D; all have been made using the artist’s favourite brush, now worn down to a bristly nub.
Ruby is a recent Fine Arts graduate from Massey University, Wellington and won the New Zealand Paint and Printmaking Award earlier in 2022. Her exhibition will be accompanied by a text from Tendai Mutambu and a video by Fraser Walker.
Ruby Wilkinson, It will not cease, 2022
Ruby Wilkinson, Mo(u)rning swim, 2022
Ruby Wilkinson, Mountain fringe, 2022
Ruby Wilkinson, One hundred and seventeen and a half, 2022
Ruby Wilkinson, Orchestra, 2022
Ruby Wilkinson, Orchestra 2, 2022
Ruby Wilkinson, Orchestra 3, 2022
Ruby Wilkinson, Rabbit in Green, 2022
Ruby Wilkinson, Road Runner, 2022
Ruby Wilkinson, This current inside of me, 2022
Ruby Wilkinson, Stars 4x4, 2022
Ruby Wilkinson, Spring listener, 2022
Ruby Wilkinson, Sports Star, 2022
Ruby Wilkinson, Forrest Bathing, 2022
Ruby Wilkinson, Sun Behind Cloud, 2022
Ruby Wilkinson, Fire the one, 2022
18 August – 10 September 2022
“I HAVE REALIZED THAT MY STUDIO DOESN’T LET IN MUCH SUNLIGHT — THIS GIVING AN EXPLANATION AS TO WHY I CAN’T STOP PAINTING IN YELLOW. I AM SIMPLY TRYING TO PAINT THE SUN.”
Ruby Wilkinson, Monday 2 May 2022
Ruby Wilkinson’s first solo exhibition with Jhana Millers Gallery, ‘Sun room’, is an ode to heliophiles: sun seeking somethings and someones. Ruby’s once-saturnine hues — dark browns and deep reds — have gradually given way to tones lighter, more ebullient in character: forest greens, light browns and golden-yellows, the last of which make several of her paintings appear to glow from within.
In ‘Marigold’, the lone, eponymous flower is rendered in delicately overlapping strands of deep yellow that skim the canvas’s edge. I imagine these painted lines — dense in parts, but mostly soft and feather-light — as a single thin ribbon that might unravel with a gentle tug, like a special sailor’s knot.
Similar to ‘Marigold’, ‘Sports Star’ leaves vast areas of canvas untouched, its jagged and
angular line counterposing the curvature of ‘Marigold’. While ‘Sports Star’ might recall a cartoonish, comic book explosion or crash, its provenance speaks to a more subdued mode of communication: namely the spirit fingers gesture which fans make at a basketball player shooting at the free-throw line. With this reference, Ruby shifts her attention to the realms of ritual practice and performance, as she does again with ‘Mo(u)rning swim’ — a work based on a personal act undertaken repeatedly by the artist in memoriam.
‘Mountain Fringe’ and ‘Spring Listener’— like ‘Marigold’ and ‘Sports Star’— might also be
seen as counterpoints to one another. One is dense with bright colour, crowned by a cluster of looping lines perched, like cursive lettering submerging or melting, on the landform rendered in a luminous yellow; the other consists of sparing touches of arching and circulating marks, which lend it a greater sense of immediacy and motion.
‘I LOVE THE FLUIDITY OF PAINTING AND HOW IT CAN ENGAGE WITH THE SENSATION OF MOVEMENTS’
Ruby Wilkinson, Monday 13th June 2022
The slanting, rounded shapes of ‘Road Runner’ mimic the frenzied circular blur beneath the titular cartoon bird in motion. The painted line repeats with shifting levels of density to give the impression of eyes going in and out of focus. And in their stretch across the canvas, these painted curlicues remind me of exercises in cursive.
‘One hundred and seventeen and a half’ comprises as many D-like shapes (or half-moons to invoke yet another celestial body) rendered in yellow paint on unprimed canvas, all of them slouching rightward at various angles. It has a similar effect to ‘This current inside of me’, a work whose overall composition also flits between line, shape and pattern; both shimmer and dance before the eye, which is made to dart restlessly across its irregular rhythms.
For Ruby, music has taken on the role of a guiding metaphor. She views these new paintings as an orchestra, an ensemble of feeling. And this ensemble of feeling owes as much to shifts in colour as it does to her painterly gestures, now less pictorial than in previous bodies of work. The older forms of the last few years have loosened to the point of formlessness, giving these new paintings an irrepressible spontaneity.
For the Anglo-American painter James Whistler (1834–1903 — who titled many of his paintings nocturnes, symphonies, harmonies, arrangements — there was a significant link between music and abstraction. Perhaps Ruby, who has named a trio of her latest works ‘Orchestra paintings’, is also reminding us how we might cast off the weight of representation and figuration by letting the emotional resonance of forms and gestures take precedence.
On the primacy of emotion and experience, Ruby brought to my attention, during our recent studio visit, the Japanese practice of forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku: a way of taking in nature through the senses, which, unlike exercising, has aimlessness at its heart. It is, as the artist remarked, an attempt at just being in nature and connecting. Almost immediately I thought of the ways in which so many of Ruby’s paintings, in all their fugitive and dynamic character, make us alert to the mercurialness of their form — which is to say, they make us present and acutely sensate, if only for a moment.
Tendai Mutambu, August 2022