Of dappled things, adazzle and dim

Span Galleries, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
1 - 11 February 2006

By Way Of The Strange
Double Madonna
Dawn Danced Darkly
Boof 'n baff 'n biff
doubts&convictions Blonde Lovelies Encore
Turner's Volcano


Of dappled things, adazzle and dim is an exhibition of paintings of order and mess, chaos and composure.

Figures dressed for work momentarily lose their poise and reveal their inner rock-star. Others with cameras attempt to capture stillness from the swirling morass.

Consider the office Christmas party: an occasion where the hierarchy breaks down as managers and their subordinates enter the realm of the dance floor or the karaoke lounge. This zone no longer values power and ambition but one’s ability to relax. Competition, if there is any, is judged on hitherto unacknowledged talents.

Other images are sourced from old snapshots, remembering a time when it was possible to be utterly absorbed in something hedonistic.


Mini narratives

‘There’s been a bit of a vogue for miniature-style painting apparent in galleries around town, some of it inspired by the great Persian tradition. Penelope Aitken’s figures have something of this demanding technique – the faces being hardest to achieve in this tight, flat style. Aitken is an active exhibitor, and a welcome development with this show is in the move away from dense black backgrounds to some witty patterns – controlled but offering a looser foil to the narrative moments acted out by her characters. It’s ambitious work.’

Penny Webb, The Age, Friday 10 February 2006



A source of inspiration behind of this body of work is Gerald Manley Hopkins’ poem, Pied Beauty, lines from which are in the exhibition's title.


Glory be to God for dappled things -
For skies of couple-colour as a brindled cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecole chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pierced - fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled, (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change.
Praise him.

Gerald Manley Hopkins 1877

While I don't share the poet's religious belief I am attracted to his pleasure in a god responsible for the creation of strange and illogical matter alongside that which is conventionally or even breathtakingly beautiful. Compared with the contemporary theory of Intelligent Design, Hopkins’ observation of nature in all its ‘fickle, freckled’ forms suggests an appreciation of the random, and in a lack of design.

Penelope Aitken February 2006



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