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Joni Brenner

At the Still Point

8 October – 14 November, 2015

Joni Brenner studio image Brow, oil on granite, 30.5 x 30.5 cm Understanding, oil on canvas 51 x 41 cm Os, watercolour on canvas, 132 x 162 cm Shadow of the World, watercolour on canvas, 100 x 132 cm

Joni Brenner takes the title for this exhibition from T S Eliot’s Burnt Norton, the first poem in his Four Quartets (1943):

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is, But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity, Where past and future are gathered……….

Portraits always exist on the threshold between past and future and Brenner’s engagement with portraiture, her acute awareness of transience, mortality and the unrelenting passing of time fuels that ineradicable desire to capture the present.

The sitter in the first body of works for this exhibition is Scott Hazelhurst, Brenner’s husband. As a group, Burroughs describes them as having ‘the emotional consonance and intensity of a sonnet cycle’. ‘Shaped within a strict set of parameters – the same sitter, similar modest dimensions, a limited range of bony off-whites, and almost without exception, the same frontal view – these presences are eloquent and silent.’

The second body of work marks a new departure in the arresting trilogy of large watercolours of skulls on canvas, Os, Cranio and Shadow. The mixture of control and unpredictability of the medium on canvas of this scale, makes for radiant images of shadow and light, evoking landscapes of the mind barely contained within the particular volumes and curves of the cranium.

Brenner’s interest in skulls and their connection to portraiture as the internal architecture of the head, has extended in recent years to include a focus on the much earlier hominin skulls, notably the small Taung child, and she has produced three large scale bronze sculptures of skulls that were exhibited at Nirox, a sculpture park in the Cradle of Humankind, a site where many of the famous hominid discoveries have been made, including the recent Homo Naledi finds which were shared with the world in September.