15 Sep 2008

Mel Gooding Lecture on Mary Fedden, ICIA, University of Bath

This was a fascinating lecture on the artist Mary Fedden by the art historian and biographer Mel Gooding. In this lecture we were taken through the works of Fedden's long career with specific focus on the paintings she made in the 1950’s and 60’s.

For me she is one of those artists that sits between abstraction and figuration in a way that only the British can. Not quite committing, yet bringing fourth a metaphysical landscape instead. In her most successful paintings ‘Hopjes’ from the mid sixties, ‘Blue Still Life’ from 1969 and other simple table top still life paintings, she is able to express, through paint, what she is thinking beyond the simple objects in front of her.

She explores the colour and the space between the objects, but also something else. Something that makes you see them as shapes first, surreal yet familiar, (influenced by her late husband the painter Julian Trevelyan) sitting on arched plains that drop down the picture plane in front of you, neither real nor imagined viewpoints but found ones created through the process of each painting.
Gooding discussed the ability Fedden has in transforming scenes of objects ‘alchemically’. How she creates ‘the mythic from the commonplace object’. There is a deep understanding of colour taken from both Braque's late ‘Atelier’ paintings and Matisse’s ‘Red Studio’ of 1911; where space, perspective and ‘objecthood’ are questioned through the act of seeing through painting.

The University of Bath now has a Fedden Room at No.16 Lansdown Crescent at the Vice Chancellors Office. This now comprises of four paintings and one drawing, including a recent donation from Fedden herself called ‘The Feather’ of 2007. These were exhibited alongside nine other paintings from local collections. An impressive little exhibition full of vitality.

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