“Today’s London,” says Emily Patrick in the catalogue to her terrific show of mostly still lifes, “is built from sheets of glass and metal with strong colours . . . smart, clever, witty, clean . . . filled with loud statements. Painting is an opportunity to offer people a different energy.”
Patrick’s energy – her ability to infuse a quiet genre with both physical movement and intellectual dynamism – makes her an outstanding, original still life painter. The centre of “Annunciation” is an enormous arrangement of flowers on a window ledge, but the drama is at the edges – light quivering on gently swaying leaves, animating the solid vase. The composition is anchored by a depiction of an apple branch outside, tough, muscular, pulled absurdly close to the window pane to stretch as a horizontal band across the picture – announcing the work as a piece of artifice.
Annunciation suggests transcendence: Patrick achieves it through engagement with natural forms, textures, colours. Her preferred medium, tempera and oil on gesso-primed board, allows rich varied paintwork: leathery petals, glossy leaves, the translucency of water in glass balancing sharply delineated porcelain in “Teacup and Deutzia in Bottle”; crisp skeletal brown leaves set against abstract drizzling grey-cream marks, rubbed, reduced, to achieve piercing luminosity in the depiction of winter rain in “Tell Me About It”.
Patrick’s best works hold sensual abandon of paint in tension with restraining, grid-like compositions, airiness and fluidity: geometric window panes offsetting tumbling blue flowers in “Angel and Hyacinths”; the verticals and diagonals of blue panelling and a black-spined Penguin book enlivening the harmony of pale china and bright strawberries in “Still Life with Cobalts”. The scale is small, but virtuosity, feeling, thought make “one little room an everywhere” – Patrick’s point, I assume, in the answer to globalisation of her depiction of kitchen debris, cauliflower, leeks, beetroot, around a globe, called “From Autumn to the Pacific”.
From Tuesday to March 15, www.emilypatrick.com