Lisa Traxler at Penwith Galleries
by Peter Davies
The St. Ives Times & Echo 26.05.2017
'The Isle of Wight based painter Lisa Traxler RWS is showing a group of eight three-dimensional paintings, or rather painted constructions (vitreous enamel on shaped steel plate), to form an intriguing installation aptly called BUILD in the Penwith's studio gallery. The Penwith's new policy of welcoming non-Cornish based artists is paying dividends since Traxler is a refreshingly new voice who's inspired by a specific corner of Peter Lanyon's oeuvre - the glass constructions that the great Cornish landscape painter made as a palpable means of exploring and rehearsing the srticulation of real space for his large and epic landscape paintings like St. Just and Porthleven.
Lanyon's early training under the wartime refugee Naum Gabo in Carbis Bay was turned to more painterly and expressionist ends by the Cornishman's inimitable almost Picasso-like, plastic imagination and restless experimentation across different media. Traxler, by contrast, relates her work to architecture, reflecting the fact that her partner, Lincoln Miles, is an award-winning IOW architectural designer. Her abstract, geometric and planar forms echo, complement, or run counter to the shaped metal surfaces she works on. The result is a jazzy, post-cubist cacophony of painted metal planes that extend flat painted lines into sculptural or architectural elevation.
Architecture is accompanied by her fashion design training in the formation of her mature language. As Jonathan Parsons explains: "Traxler's is a logical extension of the way of thinking that she refined in her previous career as a fashion editor and costume designer. She has an instinctive grasp of patterns; not just in the sense of a configuration of shapes in the picture or design, but also in the way that a three dimensional object, such as a garment, can be cut, formed or shaped out of jointed flat materials.
Traxler studied fashion design and textiles at Croydon and Birmingham and later worked as a fashion editor and designer in London during the mid-1990s. After moving to the Isle of Wight with her daughter, Traxler lived in the award-winning eco-house ;'Tane', constructed from glass and wood by Miles and baring a eall-clad exterior mural in vitreous enamel on steel. She made a similar wall panel for the interior of Stourbridge Art School in the West Midlands.
These are not just embellishments or decorative additions to adventurous buildings, but are also part of the formal fabric and concrete design. Despite the slow, complex and elaborate industrial process of producing these vitreous enamel works through firing at the Newport firm A.J. Wells on the island, Traxler keeps her painted forms fresh and improvisatory, the gesturalism of 'mark' recalling both Lanyon at his freest in the late glider paintings and Cornish modernists of more hard-edged intent like Nicholson, Wells, and Canney.
Her use of landscape evoking colour takes geometric abstraction back towards nature, which it refers to through analogy rather than faithful or pedantic description. To that extent, her work traverses the two and three dimensional divide and links the disciplines of painting and sculpture. In this capacity, she produces work that makes her a genuine kindred spirit to modernist post-war St. Ives artists. One hopes that a commission would allow her to put her visually striking work on the exterior of a building in south west Cornwall.
In distinction to her large 2011 exhibition 'Lives of Spaces' at Quay Arts Centre, Newport, which displayed large free-standing painted constructions, Traxler opts at the Penwith to show more intimate and small-scale 'models' or working studies. Her small abstract expressionist paintings accompany these tactile and spatially probing smaller works.
Living in a converted RAF war-time bunker near Ventnor on the island's south coast, Traxler continues to produce abstract work of daring intent. She is one to look out for in the future and it is appropriate that she should show at the Penwith.
Lisa Traxler's work can be seen at the Penwith's Studio Gallery from May 26 until June 24, 2017.
Art Review: Peter Davies