Contributed by Sharon Butler / Recently, Natasha Wright and Benjamin Pritchard had concurrent solo exhibitions at the John Davis Gallery in Hudson, NY. Both painters are drawn to a raw style of power painting that conjures Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner in the pre-drip years, when they were thinking about Jungian analysis, the Collective Unconscious, and the spiritual power of imagery. Ben and Natasha got together to discuss their work for Two Coats of Paint.
Benjamin Pritchard: Where you see these paintings coming from?
Natasha Wright: I call this series “Power Women” because I’m interested in turning what has been described as the male gaze back on itself. By this I mean the notion that historicallythe female bodyhasbeen used as a vehicle for the male artist’s creativity. I’m interested in turning the tables on that idea.
I’m painting a kind of raw power image, an acceptance of women’s bodies as opposed to an idealized image…I’m not interested in conventional standards surrounding beauty.
Venus of Willendorf is a powerful example of this….I’ll take the idea of the Venus and combine that with a contemporary influence like Cardi B, who also exemplifies this idea of claiming ownership over one’s femininity, and then use that as a way into a painting. I’ll do drawings of a theme and then develop a painting from them.
BP: Should I be thinking about a narrative when I look at your work?
NW: Not directly no, I see my finished paintings as specific totemic images of power more than stories. The pull is to try and express an inner attitude that I have that exists within all women. I approach each individual painting with a certain frame of mind and choose materials that address the attitude of the woman. The paintings manifest a dark, murky, subterranean, feminine energy.
BP: Yes, that’s so interesting and it’s the bridge between our worlds. For both of us painting is an engagement, an encounter, with someone or something that has a force existing both within us when we are making the painting and then also in the final object. It gives the paintings a kind of primeval energy and power.
NW: Ben what about your paintings? There is a cared-for, dug-up quality that feels both specific and imprecise in your work.
BP: Each painting is a repository for personal feelings and thoughts. I work with what I call language in order to find a register that is beneath or beyond a language type system. I use language to get beyond language haha…Earlier you mentioned pattern and I’d say that pattern is both a language that is understood as well as something I recognize from my earliest memories of life. I use a pattern idea as a means of finding my way into a painting space. In a painting situation subtle affects like care and love and tenderness exist alongside a direct, personal experience.
I think of the finished objects as bodily in a way not dissimilar to yours. These “bodies” have a complex set of qualities that exist simultaneously — even if at times they’re at odds with one another.
I’m a big fan of paradox and counting to two. A successful Ben Pritchard can count to two.
About the artists:
Natasha Wright has exhibited in New Zealand, Australia and the United States. In 2019 Natasha has had solo shows at SFA Projects (New York City), John Davis Gallery (Hudson, NY) and Parlor Projects (New Zealand). Group shows include Steven Harvey Fine Art (New York City), M David and Co (Brooklyn, NY) and Bowery Gallery (New York City). She earned her Masters of Fine Arts from The New York Studio School in 2017 and the same year co-founded JMN Artists, a curatorial collaboration and artists’ initiative.
Ben Pritchard is a Brooklyn-based artist originally from Detroit. He has had solo exhibitions at Daniel Weinberg Gallery (Los Angeles, CA), John Davis Gallery (Hudson, NY), Life on Mars (Brooklyn, NY), and SFA Projects (New York, NY), which was reviewed in Art Critical.com. His curatorial projects include “Cup o Sugar” at Lorimoto and “Paintings in Trees” (Brooklyn, NY). He attended the New York Studio School (received the Hohenberg Travel Award) and has been awarded a Joan Mitchell Foundation grant to attend a residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Pritchard is a 2009 graduate of the Royal Academy of Arts, London. He is currently working towards a show of large-scale paintings for the Bangor Museum of Art.
“Benjamin Pritchard: Recent Paintings” and “Natasha Wright: When Black Swallows Red,” John Davis Gallery, 362 1/2 Warren Street Hudson, New York. July through August 10, 2019.