If Nigella made art then this might be what she would make – creamy blobs of sticky figurativeness wrestling with lashings of vivid detail inviting the viewer to dip their finger before stepping back and idly contemplating the canvas through half closed eyes. One can almost imagine a soft focus Ann Bennett winking at the viewer as she dreamily teases out another oily motif, perhaps brushing her lips against the tip of soft, squirally sable, her eyes briefly meeting yours before she tilts her head to contemplate another bout of languid mark making.
So it’s a touch odd to then realise that the six large canvases that make up Tabula Rasa, the centre piece of her show at the Artrix are of chubby, healthy looking babies, possibly the artist’s own, each one luxuriating smack dab in the middle of their own large, creamily dreamy canvas. Each baby appears content, as though they have just been tickled by a favourite parent or been gently woken from a particularly satisfying nap. No chiarascuro here, nothing so dramatic, instead each huge baby comprises a series of fragmented gestures; a curious eye, twisted fingers, the curve of limb, a cowslick, that leap from the canvas whilst their torsos blur into marsh mellow yellow and white chocolate fudge-cakey nothingness.
But it is as much about the paint and it’s application as it is the image. If you step up close to the canvases, real close, no – closer, so close that you can almost taste where the butter and the turpentine meet and where the edge of the canvas melts away until form becomes meaningless, and you allow your gaze to skirt around caked ridges before it tumbles down linseed alleys and painterly micro valleys then it is like being once more escorted back into your own private childhood, one of imaginary landscapes where your imagination could run wild and for a moment no one could know what you were dreaming, no one in the grown up world.
Tabula Rasa is at the Artrix, Bromsgrove until September 1st.