‘For five days he ran ... until every sign of man had disappeared.’ (Paris Texas, 1984)
An initial encounter with Linda Holloway’s Anomie paintings might suggest that they are directly accessible through a familiar iconography centred upon the art and literature of Western civilisation. Panoramic landscapes viewed from on-high, populated by diminutive figures on a voyage or quest to somewhere else. It’s the stuff of classical literature and popular culture, from Homer’s Odysseus to Ridley Scott’s Thelma and Louise. Certainly, in works like Frodo and Quixote, even Holloway’s titles direct attention to such source material.
As a series of dream-like landscapes, these paintings also offer the familiar reassurance of an association with European modernism and artists like Salvador Dali. Yet Holloway’s iconography is far less prescribed. More pertinent to these images are the medieval paintings of Hieronymus Bosch – not in the specifics of their imagery, but in the spirit of their intentions. Holloway touches upon and reveals psychological and emotional states of being – curiously tangible, yet often inaccessible to objective reassurance and the detail of explanation; and while Bosch’s paintings are concerned with the certainty of moral behaviour, Holloway’s art is open to all possibilities. In theAnomie series, her attention is more about an indeterminate state of mind in which the navigation of place and an absence of direction indicates an ever-changing perspective – a deficiency in moral and emotional purpose.
It is no coincidence that the travellers in these works are observed from a distance. Holloway provides the big picture without the expectation that it will necessarily provide clarity or revelation. This is an extraordinary environment in which self-deprecating black and white grids descend from above offering the promise of a plan; a manoeuvre or strategy in an indefinite space – yet with little intended purpose or anticipated outcome.
The cluster of buildings in Quixote could be a place of arrival and comfort, but as many travellers arrive as leave. Quixote puts forward the deception of a journey to somewhere, yet this storyline seems more focussed upon identifying and negotiating the act of navigation. Does it first require an ability to read its roads and pathways and then recognise the falsehood of a promise of direction? The way in which the act of reading purpose is central to these works shifts attention from the immediate narrative of the painting to a questioning of the imagery itself. Like Holloway’s previous series, the absence of landmarks and sanctuaries are telling. Even the banks of the rivers or streams are simply borders for the ebb and flow of constantly changing currents. And all those circles, rhythms and geometric patterns in a delicate state of assembly or realisation are as transitory as the figures that inhabit these environments.
The Anomie series reveals a world in which its occupants are dislocated from one another, yet in their shared silence, collectively participate in the very experience of being so. If the point of entry to this series may initially seem uncomplicated - like the deliberately misleading narratives that have often typified the ‘quest for the holy grail’ literature - Holloway’s is a purposeful and deceptively knowing invitation.
Essay by Warren Feeney
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