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Susan G. Scott

The Offering

by Christine Unger

Summer 2007

A notation on a far larger body of work titled the Young Artists, The Offering carries the essence of a singularly compelling narrative-something fundamental and immediately recognizable - a gift, or a story about a gift. On one hand a young artist sits at her easel, diligently regarding a photograph. Next to her, the painting of a girl - the girl in the photograph? perhaps herself as a young girl? - looks out at the audience, head gently, questioningly, tilted, holding forth a bowl filled with an unidentifiable fruit, an offering. We see this pair of images produced not once, but three times and are given to understand that there are at least three more versions of this diptych. There is clearly something compelling for the artist here beyond even the iconic and anthropological resonance of a girl with a bowl-an image reiterated in every culture virtually throughout recorded history. There is a narrative in this coupling that speaks to role of the artist in society and seems to ask, will you have what I offer, these choices I am making, will you take them as my gift, will you pass them to the next person, the next generation - these, the fruits of my labour?

The diptych is part of a much larger painting series titled Young Artists that encompasses some 30 paintings and 40 drawings executed since 2003. They present many of the questions and issues that lie at the heart of the artist's vocation. In The Offering, the young artist is represented in monochromatic colour, the strictly factual line drawing in black and white in the full and glaring clutter of a studio setting. The distancing high yellow glaze and the uncomfortable angles emphasize that peculiarly unsettling anxiety and tension that are part of an unfinished artwork - the process that impels the artist towards a state of balance or "composition". The execution of the "subject" the girl with the bowl, is far looser, emotive, inviting. It is in direct communication with the audience. One can almost read the very definition of art in this juxtaposition of images and the remarkable contrast between the real and the imagined that insists that reality is somehow incomplete and un-engaging - not quite alive - without the mediation of imagination imparted by the artist.

The four solitary heads that accompany The Offering - all young girls - look out at the audience with a questioning gaze that refutes our assumptions of innocence and the belief that a youthful face is somehow devoid of character. Their individuality, their potential, their doubts, their intelligence, are all written boldly in their demeanors. The artist's use of bold contrasting colours and rough brushwork suggest a strength and character that is historically absent from the portraits of young girls.

The unusual experience of being able to see three versions of the artist's work invites the audience to enter into the creative process and allows us to question our own choices, to use our imagination and to revalue the labour of art itself - not as a gift from the muses but as a feat of determination and will.