Colours carefully tuned to sought-for balances and tensions within pared-down compositions of squares and rectangles, the light, fresh surfaces of Lavinia’s paintings belie many weeks of deliberation, with countless revisions and layerings of colour. No part of the painting is less thorough and considered than another. Colour is the principal anchor in her paintings. There is often a sense that the colours strain against containment, and the rectangles, rather than being straight-jackets, turn out to be fluid as a result of shifting nuances between colours. Sometimes, as in the recent series of homages, the building blocks of the compositions appear to spill over into another, perceived reality, with shapes morphing from their rectilinear origins within the paintings into walls of buildings, a window or a fluttering cloth. Here the eye oscillates between the two; the essentially planar nature of painting and the correspondence of such planes in the world around us. The paintings seem to ask the question: which is truer? Where is the colour freer? A tension is generated here that dissolves the cliched polemic between ‘abstract’ and ‘figurative’ and asks: what in fact feels more real? Such questions and uncertainties are at the heart of any art worth engaging with, and the two sides square up to each other, need each other.
This is an ongoing journey that anyone knowing her paintings over the years will recognise as continually unfolding, scuppering any notion of facile formulae. Though her work is grounded in a strand of modernist tradition that includes such luminaries as Albers, Malevich, Reinhardt, and contemporaries such as Callum Innes and Sean Scully, Lavinia also draws from a deeper, broader well of inquiry encompassing the works of historic painters who, within a different context, have examined the fundamental relations of plane to picture plane, of colour and tone, adjusting these elements to hold the eye. Her paintings are a far cry from slavish emulations or lazy appropriations of solutions fought for at other times and with other concerns. It is always a joy to visit her studio, because I never know what I’ll encounter or where she will go next, because her dialogue with painting is real: a dialogue of give and take, that is open-ended and alert to nuances of modulation and change.
Oliver Gosling ARCA