Spotlight: Anousha Payne’s self-reflecting paintings explore symbolism, mythology and dreams

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What do you want to know: Stellarhighway Gallery presents “Anousha Payne: Thick Mud Slowly Oozing”, the artist’s first solo exhibition in the United States. Until November 20, 2022, the title of the exhibition is taken from the novel by Clarice Lispector. Passion according to GH (1964), a book centered on the ideas of introspection, self-awareness and transformation. Payne (b. 1991) is a London-based artist who studied at Camberwell College of Arts. His work frequently addresses Indian folklore, and more specifically characters that convey themes of fate and chance, morality and magic. The current exhibition is made up of a series of paintings depicting stylistic interpretations of Corleck’s head – a 1st or 2nd century carved stone found in Ireland in 1855 – a distinct departure from Payne’s usual subject matter.

Why we love it: Payne’s depictions of a many-faced form read as both an eerie mask and a formal study in perspective. It is also important to note that the artist considers these works as a kind of self-portrait, where the motif of Corleck’s head is a starting point from which she can explore different facets of herself, or touch on symbols, dreams, and myths that particularly resonate with her. In Corleck Head (with a pointed martini glass) (2022), Payne refers to a dream she had in which she tried to injure herself with the foot of a martini glass but did not draw blood – the violence of the action is associated with symbolism of glass, which in dreams represents a desire for change. While Payne primarily uses watercolor and pigment on cotton canvas, in many works gel, bio-resin and oil paint add an intriguing tactility.

According to the Artist: “This body of work documents a shift in my life both personally and within my practice; using [Clarice] Lispector’s text as a vehicle for describing or attributing feelings of existentialism experienced in recent months caused by interactions with insects, dreams, events, and myths. The paintings are all portraits in varying states and tones depicting me as a Corleck head. The Corleck Head is a three-headed Iron Age sculpture whose cultural origins are unknown. It can be seen as representing the past, present, and future, or the three original creators of the world. In this series, the protagonist is depicted torn between past, present and future; forcing the present into a mask-like state, making it difficult to discern their current state of mind, some sort of limbo or purgatory of indecision… This body of work is the first full series of paintings and is also my first (only) painting exhibition – repetition was necessary. It is deeply personal and differs in that it focuses more on the self directly via dreams and events rather than referring to identity through the prism of folktale characters that relate to my heritage.

See more work from the exhibition below.

Anousha Payne, Corleck’s head (bitten by an ant)2022. Courtesy of the artist and Stellarhighway.

Anousha Payne, Corleck Head (with a pointed martini glass) (2022).  Courtesy of the artist and Stellarhighway.

Anousha Payne, Corleck Head (with a pointed martini glass) (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Stellarhighway.

Anousha Payne, Corleck Head (transforming into a dog) (2022).  Courtesy of the artist and Stellarhighway.

Anousha Payne, Head of Corleck (transforming into a dog) (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Stellarhighway.

Anousha Payne, Pale Corleck Head (2022).  Courtesy of the artist and Stellarhighway.

Anousha Payne, Head of Pale Corleck (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Stellarhighway.

Installation view of "Thick mud slowly oozing" (2022).  Courtesy of Stellarhighway.

Installation view of “Thick Mud Slowly Oozing” (2022). Courtesy of Stellarhighway.

Anousha Payne: a thick mud that oozes slowlyis on view at Stellarhighway through November 20, 2022. Click to view the exhibit virtually, or email for an appointment.

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