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Review

Liz Willis – Exhibition of Paintings

– The Plough, Great Torrington

The simple white walls of The Plough’s exhibition space provide the perfect setting for Liz Willis’ pictures – her robust use of white, both within the paintings themselves, and in their surrounds and borders is certainly strengthened in this context.

Not that this artist needs strengthening, for strength is her key characteristic. As distinguished fellow artist Sandy Brown commented, we encounter here strong work, in a strong style, with a strong identity. Her distinctive vision has the power to make less, more – if just three elements create the effect, Liz will hold it there. Few could cope with a huge area of black, but she manages just such a challenge with assurance: balanced with small brightly coloured rectangles like flags, that immensity assumes a fresh significance of opportunity, perhaps even of hopefulness.

While several works successfully confine themselves to black and white, vivid colour bursts from others. Blood red recurs, but we are also assailed by vibrant pinks and greens, often clashing. Once again, the mastery of this artist dominates, as she confidently wields this ambitious palette, often on a big scale.

But there’s much more to her technique.

There are some fine representations of her well-established use of torn paper and superimposition of the results. A quasi three dimensional effect is achieved by such collages, with sometimes – as in ‘Black, slipping’ – even real movement.

Do not be misled by the simplicity of her titles – ‘Happy Scraps’, ‘Marks’, ‘Heavy Red Circle’. You are free to find your own associations, meanings, or even humour – for that is here as well. Thus, a typically laconic piece like ‘Wandering Line’ is rich in ideas – is this a profile of hills, a medical tracing, a typical disconcerting Willis crack or crevice with a whole further set of connotations, or the passage of time, if not an individual’s life? And the list goes on. In the presence of non-representational art of this calibre, we find ourselves surprised at how much can be suggested.

A stimulating and truly creative exhibition then, not least in its strong invitation to the viewer to engage – to join the artist in her exploration of the world and in her pleasure in it. Although the lasting impression may be that of the artist’s strong conviction, vigour and clarity, this is tempered by the warmth of her response, and ultimate optimism.

Richard Westcott