Nature highs: a country cute look at the floral world from Laura Owens
Laura Owens' paintings are bold and beautiful. And the word is that she's an artist to watch. Words: Susanna Beaumont
I.aura ()wens lives in LA. And she paints big canvases. And she is talked about. As one critic recently put it. she has been hyped to hysterical heights. But ()wens is no sufferer of vertigo. Born in 1970. she was sci/ed upon as a hot new talent on leaving (‘alifornia Institute ()f The Arts in the 90s. But she is clearly holding her own. ()wens has survived her ‘discovery‘ and talk has turned to acclaim. She showed work in the Saatchi (iallery's Young .-lmt'rit'un.v 3 in 1998 and has had two solo shows at the London gallery. Sadie (‘oles IlQ. A major new voice in contemporary painting is the current line on Laura ()wens.
And her paintings‘.’ Whimsical. country cute. mischievous and jokey are the words frequently used to describe them. Perhaps that is ()wens' cleverness. She paints pictures that are good to look at. She doesn't feel obliged to be earnest or to court deep analysis. Could it be a sign of changing times'.’ The last few decades have been earmarked by talk of self— analysis and life as one big spiritual wasteland. Are we all about to lighten up‘.’ If Matisse wanted to make paintings to be as pleasing as an armchair is to a tired businessman. ()wens is out to make paintings as enticing as putting up our feet and de-stressing.
In one painting. well-fed bumblebees buu. bun.
88 THE “ST 8 ~22 I.;r 2000
‘You want to make the painting you want to be with. Not one that is constantly telling you everything it knows.’ Laura Owens
bit/.7. around a rather comical looking hive. In another
work a monkey makes a guest appearance. And colour abounds with an unabashed relish. In short there is a definite whiff of let’s—all-feel-good-with- life. ()wens feels her work is specifically American. Maybe it is its large scale. its boldness. touched with more than a hint of the kitsch. As ()wens puts it: ‘I suppose it's a straightforward. Midwestern. no-bones- about-it sensibility and a certain sense of humour.‘ This no-nonsense approach goes on. ‘lfltimately. you really want to make the painting that you want to be with.‘ she says. ‘Not one that is constantly telling you everything it knows. Who wants to be with something. or someone. like that'." As ()wens points out. it is more fun to be with someone who is prepared to put themselves out on a limb or embarrass themselves a
little. But what looks set to make ()wens‘ show at
lidinburgh‘s Inverleith Ilouse particularly interesting
is that her work is to be shown alongside a series of
I‘)th century botanical teaching diagrams drawn from
the archives of the Royal Botanic (Burden of
lidinburgh. Commissioned by John Hutton Balfour. one time regius keeper of the gardens. these diagrams were originally used in pre-slide days to illustrate lectures. And as ()wens‘ work frequently takes quotes from the floral world. it should make an intriguing visual interplay. What‘s more. with Inverleith House set in the midst of the Royal Botanic (iarden. there are numerous park benches to sit on. You could even put your feet up.
Laura Owens' new work and John Hutton Balfour's Botanical Teaching Diagrams are at Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh, Sun 18 Jun-Sun 30 Jul.
News and views from the world of art
ANOTHER ART SPACE has opened. A basement room at the offices of Edinburgh architects, Reiach and Hall, has transformed into ‘sleeper’. a gallery devoted to contemporary art. Curated by artist Alan Johnston, the first show is of work by the Basel- based artist Franziska Furter who is currently on an exchange to Edinburgh College Of Art. Entitled hispaniola, the show is inspired by the writings of Robert Louis Stevenson. Coming next to sleeper is 5 Tapes, audio works by Bruce Nauman.
LIFE WITHOUT BUILDINGS, a band from Glasgow featuring Will Bradley, Robert Johnstone, Chris Evans and Sue Tompkins all of whom also work as artists are releasing their second single, Is, Is And The IRS. Currently receiving substantial airplay on Radio 1, the record is coming out on Tugboat Records on Monday 12 June. And now there is talk of an album.
DOUGLAS GORDON CONTINUES to do thrilling things with Hitchcock. In his latest venture, Gordon in collaboration with conductor James Conlon, has taken Hitchcock's celluloid investigation into mistaken identity, Vertigo, and produced Feature Film, which is described as comprising a ’psychological portrait, a mesmerising soundtrack and a motion picture'. It is to be screened at London's Royal Festival Hall on Saturday 24 June at 7.30pm. Call 020 7960 4242 for details. ONE HUNDRED ARTISTS are embarking on residences in Scotland as part of Year Of The Artist. One self- confessed DlY-obsessed artist is to take up a residency at 8&0, another is joining forces with the Mountaineering Council Of Scotland. And Nathan Coley is to be artist in residence at the Lockerbie Trail at Kamp van Zeist in the Netherlands.
A CALL TO all artists. Stirling's Tolbooth is currently being transformed into an arts venue by Richard Murphy Architects and artists, filmmakers and creative thinkers are invited to put forward proposals for new look building. For a project brief, contact the Heritage and Cultural Services at Stirling Council on 01786 443336.
Douglas Gordon is still hooked on Hitchcock