Spotlight: Anousha Payne’s Self-Reflective Paintings Explore Symbolism, Mythology, and Dreams

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What You Need to Know: Stellarhighway gallery presents “Anousha Payne: Thick Mud Slowly Oozing,” the artist’s first solo exhibition in the U.S. Running through November 20, 2022, the title of the exhibition is drawn from the Clarice Lispector novel (1964), a book that centers on ideas of introspection, self-awareness, and transformation. Payne (b. 1991) is a London-based artist who studied at Camberwell College of Arts. Her work frequently engages with Indian folklore, and more specifically the characters that convey themes of fate and chance, morality, and magic. The current exhibition is comprised of a series of paintings portraying stylistic interpretations of the Corleck Head—a carved stone from the 1st or 2nd century that was found in Ireland in 1855—a distinct departure from Payne’s usual subject matter.

Why We Like It: Payne’s depictions of a multi-faced form read both as an uncanny mask and as a formal study of perspective. It is important, too, to note that the artist considers these works as a type of self-portrait, whereby the motif of the Corleck Head is a starting point from which she can explore different facets of herself, or touch on symbols, dreams, and myths that particularly resonate with her. In (2022), Payne makes reference to a dream she had in which she attempted to wound herself with the stem of a martini glass but didn’t draw blood—the violence of the action is paired with the symbolism of glass, which in dreams represents a desire for change. While Payne primarily employs watercolor and pigment on cotton canvas, in many of the works, gel medium, bio resin, and oil paint add an intriguing tactility.

According to the Artist: “This body of work documents a shift in my life both personally and within my practice; using [Clarice] Lispector’s text as a vehicle to describe or assign feelings of existentialism experienced during the past months caused by interactions with insects, dreams, happenings, and myths. The paintings are all portraits in varying states and tones depicting myself as a Corleck Head. The Corleck Head is a three-headed Iron Age sculpture whose cultural origins are unknown. It can be taken to represent the past, present, and future, or the three original female creators of the world. Within this series, the protagonist is depicted pulled between past, present, and future; forcing the present into a mask-like state, making it difficult to discern their current state of mind, a limbo of sorts, or a purgatory of indecision…This body of work is the first full series of paintings and is also my first (only) painting show—the repetition was necessary. It is deeply personal and differs in that it focuses more on the self directly via dreams and happenings rather than referring to identity through the lens of characters in folktales that relate to my heritage.”

See more work from the exhibition below.

Anousha Payne, Corleck Head (bitten by an ant), 2022. Courtesy of the artist and Stellarhighway.

Anousha Payne, , 2022. Courtesy of the artist and Stellarhighway.

Anousha Payne, Corleck Head (with sharp martini glass) (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Stellarhighway.

Anousha Payne, (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Stellarhighway.

Anousha Payne, Corleck Head (turning into a dog) (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Stellarhighway.

Anousha Payne, (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Stellarhighway.

Anousha Payne, Pale Corleck Head (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Stellarhighway.

Anousha Payne, (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Stellarhighway.

Installation view of "Thick Mud Slowly Oozing" (2022). Courtesy of Stellarhighway.

Installation view of “Thick Mud Slowly Oozing” (2022). Courtesy of Stellarhighway.

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