In Approaching the Surface Rachel Goodyear presents drawings of girls and women, in familiar poses and settings but with something unsettling disturbing what might otherwise veer into being cinematic.
It’s a pleasure to go to a gallery which showcases the work of an artist for whom drawing is centre stage. When Rachel Goodyear talked about her work to the MA Drawing course earlier in the year, she spoke about all her drawings being fragments, a thought that I found helpful. But in comparison with, say the Vandenberg show I went to earlier in the week, these works stand on their own as well. In conversation, Goodyear said that she still thought of them also as fragments, in the sense that the whole story is not present; there is a past and a future. That is something I would like to achieve in my own work.
The essay by Philomena Epps, in the gallery notes, links the feeling of Goodyear’s work to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s novella The Yellow Wallpaper, in which a bored woman’s obsession with the wallpaper descends into madness. Goodyear’s women often seem self-contained but not at ease. Earlier work placed figures on the paper without background; here ink, watercolour and charcoal create dark, ambiguous spaces. These dark spaces might be ‘the blind spots in an individual’s memory’ or perhaps the haunt of unexpressed fears.
Epps writes of how ‘the work deliberately creates mysterious obstacles for the viewer’, as a way of engaging with the idea of distorted memory and perception. And of course the obstacles obscure the view of the subject at the same time.