THE LIVING IMPULSE

PAINTINGS BY LYNNE CAMERON
5TH BASE GALLERY, LONDON
5 -11 JUNE 2014
The exhibition is sponsored by:
Economic and Social Research Council, UK
Faculty of Education and Language Studies at
the Open University.
Steve Wright provided inspiration and curation.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
i
I came to art in 1996, after an operation to re-
move a second cataract from my eyes. I remem-
ber looking at the leaves of a shrub as I walked
out of the hospital -- so sharp, bright and colour-
ful after the brownish blur I had been living with.
That was the moment I wanted to be able to
make art.
I began with drawing, learning to see the world
as an artist and how to make marks on paper.
Over the years, I have built up my skills and prac-
tice alongside full time work as an academic,
and have been exhibiting since 2009. Now my
art practice is at the centre of my life, and The
Living Impulse is my first solo show in London.
My paintings express the overlapping, frag-
mented and dynamic landscapes of memory cre-
ated by our embodied experiences in place and
space and by remembered emotions.
In this exhibition, my artwork is in conversation
with my academic research into conflict transfor-
mation and empathy. Both my art practice and
my research come from noticing and attending
to the specific. As Paul Klee said, “I must begin,
not with hypotheses, but with specific instances,
no matter how minute”.
The physical world provides underlying struc-
tures for my large paintings on canvas: the lines
of wheat straw fallen from a roof as it was being
thatched, or the tension of a young man’s arms
as he speaks of friends killed in conflict. Over
these structures I layer colour and texture, each
new gesture responding to what is already in
place. Collage allows interruption of form and dis-
ruption of structure and colour, like a sudden
flash of memory.
The works on paper in this exhibition comprise a
series, “A Wonder World for Enid”, and respond
to ideas about empathy, interaction, and fragmen-
tation of memory. They are motivated by experi-
ence of watching the progression of dementia
and the changing nature of dialogue it imposes.
Layers of intense colour are created through arbi-
trary juxtapositions, and the use of fluorescent
pink and orange to heighten affect/effects on
neighbouring hues. Tones and textures of greys
on top of the colour layer work as a kind of ‘in-
verse sculpting’ by excluding and veiling.
What’s next? Moving out of central London to find
more space for painting, drawing on the natural
world for shapes, exploiting the colour possibili-
ties of contemporary paint technology, finding a
place for beauty.
June 2014
LYNNE CAMERON: ARTIST BIOGRAPHY

2
RECENT COURSES
2012-13 Advanced Painting, Morley College, London.
2012 Painting in Contemporary Practice. Slade School of Fine Art, University College London.
2010 Painting. Slade School of Fine Art, University College London.
2009 Painting. Slade School of Fine Art, University College London.
SOLO EXHIBITIONS
2014 The Living Impulse. 5th Base Gallery, London.
2013 Falling into Place. University of Leeds Clothworkers' Hall Foyer
GROUP EXHIBITIONS
2013 and... Morley Gallery, London.
2013 Mutopia, Deptford X.
2012 Bucks Open Studios
2011 Five Women Artists. Aim Gallery, Milton Keynes
2010, 2009 Bucks Open Studios
WEBSITE
http://lynnecameron.com
EMAIL
lynnejcameron@yahoo.co.uk
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an essay by Steve Wright
1
COUNTENANCING
BEAUTY: THE
PAINTINGS OF
LYNNE CAMERON
There are two kinds of painter: those who work out a painting in advance; and those who discover
what it’s going to be through making it. Lynne Cameron is one of the latter, her approach both pur-
poseful and flexible. There are clear ideas, interests and intentions, informed by Cameron’s academic
research into empathy and metaphor; there is also paint. As a painter, I’m most interested in how
these works have been made and how we should look at them.
‘The Living Impulse’ brings together different kinds of painting that represent stages in Cameron’s re-
cent development; like all really interesting artists, she doesn’t stand still. Indeed, it’s by changing the
nature of our artworks that artists find out what we’re really interested in, because something always
stays the same, however divergent the various avenues we explore.
One unifying element is Cameron’s colour. Here is an artist unafraid of colour, though increasingly ex-
ploring its subtleties. Her palette derives from the places and people she has encountered and is
firmly rooted in the present by her use of fluorescent acrylic paint. She is at her best when her colours
have been liberated from their original context and can interact with each other without having to de-
scribe a landscape or object. In the series A Wonder World for Enid, the same intense hues of her ab-
stract paintings are contained and controlled by subsequent layers of ethereal greys that soften or
conceal the underpainting. To the painter, grey can be the most beautiful of colours.
The enquiring, intelligent nature of these works marks them out as ‘serious’ paintings, although Cam-
eron’s willingness to allow them to be beautiful goes against the grain of contemporary art theory and
education, which favour the cerebral over the aesthetic. But, as Cameron says, beauty is anything
but easy to achieve. It requires an understanding of the medium; a sensitivity to nuances of colour
and surface texture, brushstroke and drip. Moreover, the painter must create something original that
won’t immediately strike the well-informed viewer as similar to something already seen. This is where
the narratives underlying these paintings are so important: they lead the artist to do specific things
with particular colours, in a certain format that become something new. There are influences here, in-
cluding Emil Nolde and Hans Hofmann – but they inform rather than dictate the work, whose nature
remains experimental and personal.
All of these works derive from ideas about communication and situations where it has broken down,
whether from inter-tribal conflict in Kenya or the debilitating effects of dementia. Looking at Lynne
Cameron’s paintings, it is important to remember that painting, though a means of communication is
non-verbal. To appreciate them, look closely at their colours and surfaces, at the spaces in-between
forms and flowers, at the glimpses of submerged layers , asking how it was achieved and what it
might mean – but don’t look for clear answers. As Edward Hopper observed, “If you could say it in
words, there would be no reason to paint.”
Steve Wright www.stevewrightart.com
6
The Living Impulse exhibition brings together art-
works made between 2012 and 2014.
2
THE PAINTINGS
The ‘Living Impulse’ exhibition reflects two powerful experiences
in the life of the artist: visiting her father in his care home as his
dementia worsened, and, as part of her academic research, trav-
elling to Kenya and Nepal to meet people affected by conflict.
The paintings exploit colour, layering, and use of space in re-
sponse to the places and emotions of these experiences
FRAGMENTING
LANDSCAPES
8
Enid had a room across from my father. When we first visited, she
could walk up and down the corridor, and say a few words to the
staff. Over the three years, she gradually stopped moving and be-
came bed-ridden.
One day, as I sat with my father, I overheard a conversation be-
tween Enid and her daughter. They spoke of the theatre, of
Shakespeare plays they had been to, the actors they had seen. It
was amazing to hear this silent woman come alive through the
dialogue, memories revived and relived. Her daughter did most
of the ‘work’ in the conversation but, even so, the unhappy si-
lence that characterised Enid’s life was temporarily bridged.
Dementia, as we watched it creep across the minds of Enid and
my father, is such a cruel disease. It wipes out the delight and
pleasure of memories and the possibility of talk. People with rich,
full lives are left with fear and anxiety.
I created ‘a wonder world for Enid’ to express the beauty and con-
nectedness that still remains possible. The series of works on pa-
per concern how we communicate as life fades away. They also
carry my anger, pity and sadness.
A WONDER
WORLD FOR
ENID
REMEMBERING...
9
Empathy is about connecting with another person, understand-
ing how they feel in their lives and their worlds. As humans, we
have an impulse to empathy; we also have a range of ways to
stop empathy.
The tendency to stop empathy is especially strong when times
are difficult or we are fearful. Then we can block out the humanity
of the other person; we can distance ourselves from them; we
can lump them all together as a mass and class them as a dan-
ger or less than human.
Empathy is not easy. It requires recognising another person’s
commitments and decisions, even when those would not be our
own choices. Not agreeing with them necessarily, but accepting
that is how they are.
Empathic understanding is an idea that we have developed
through our research with conflict transformation practitioners,
and that we see as a goal to aim at wherever people want to live
without violence. Empathic understanding makes many things
possible, including living together peacefully and forgiveness. It
EMPATHY AS A
LIVING IMPULSE
As a professor at the Open
University, Lynne Cameron
has carried out a series of
studies into how empathy is
changed by uncertainty,
violence and conflict.
10
develops out of repeated dialogue with the other, from doing empathy over a period of time.
Empathic understanding means that:
• Other people are seen in their full human complexity and multiple social identities
• and that’s OK. Differences between us are accepted.
• All people are seen as entitled to dignity, respect, and compassion.
• People are supported in dealing with the emotional challenges generated by the work of empathy.
In my paintings, I play with the idea of difference and accepting them, with the gap between people
that reflects different lives. And with empathy and dialogue as reaching across that gap to listen and
try to understand. In the Enid paintings on paper, look for ‘the gap between’ and how it is crossed
and resisted.
More on empathy:
www.open.ac.uk/edict
The Empathy Blog
www.empathyblog.wordpress.com
11
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