An artist we've been following since her Yale days has recently opened her Parisian debut by introducing a new suite of large oils and guaches on paper. Now on view at with Marguo gallery, Stepping Out marks another shift in Rebecca Ness' trajectory with images that are again drawn from her personal life but orientated towards scenes that are capturing our connection with the nature and the great outdoors.
After exploring her interest in fabric and fashion in the context of queer identity, looking outward to the world, documenting the life indoor during the past two years of lockdowns and quarantines, Ness is now shifting her focus to the open space and nature. While portraying the life outdoors, she is able to capture both the harmonious beauty around but also the anxiety of homo urbanus in its (un)natural surroundings. This is accentuated by contrasting the archetypes of modern life such as phones, food, drinks, or medication packaging, alongside flowers, fruits, vegetables, tree barks, and the distinctive, open space light. On a technical level, this means blending the text and graphic elements against a spectrum of painterly brush strokes through which she’s giving nods to some of the painting’s greatest, all while providing an attentive commentary on the modern-day lifestyle. With the most obvious nod being to Van Gogh, a few of the works such as Olive Branch or A Happy Memory (both 2021), feature his iconic sunflowers and an abundance of glowing yellow pigment. Further on, this step outside means working with a different set of light, which is fully utilized in A Happy Memory, a Manet’s Dejeuner sur L’herbe-like composition pierced with the blinding sun rays.
The scenes are based on real life moments, but are often being rearranged and infused with deeply subjective ways of seeing and experiencing them. Whether adding objects which weren't actually there, exaggerating some of the protagonists' features, or putting emphasis on personally significant details, Ness adds almost a documentarian character to the work. A Rustling or A Happy Memory (all 2021), for example, capture moments from her trips to nature with her partner and friends and include a variety of actual objects that ground these moments in a certain time and place. And while her previous body of work was focused on clustered, borderline claustrophobic interiors, she is now fully embracing the freedom of the open spaces, a feeling that culminates in a large image of a soaring pigeon, In Flight (2021). Striking with its simple, airy composition, the image navigates viewer's focus towards the intricate marks that realistically depict the bird's glistening, feathery exterior. But, being a monumental portrait of a bird that is a symbol of urban spaces and pollution, like most of other paintings in the show this image too carries a suggestive, playful flipside to its grandiose way of celebrating nature.