The beauty of Ominous Landscapes

April 24, 2017

Gwen van Embden’s Mountain + Water exhibition reflects the uncertainty and chaos engulfing SA and part of the world


At an exhibition titled Mountain + Water you expect to be confronted with landscape paintings. Yet there is a glaring absence of natural features in Gwen van Embden’s exhibition at the AVA gallery. Well, almost.

There is an eponymous series of small paintings in which nature can be detected; trees and a gently curved horizon is suggested. However, these features are blurred, on the verge of collapsing into abstract and unknown forms.

They are an ideal introduction to the rest of the exhibition, which consists of large abstract paintings where landscape settings are withheld, obscured or obliterated.

Van Embden does not lack the technique or abilities to paint landscapes; the sense of order and ideology required to render it is not available to her — or society.


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