Download exhibition catalogue here
Driving back from Melbourne, Mignon Steele wrote the word VOLITION on the steering wheel of her car. It remains there, scrawled in white pencil, a complex definition encompassing free will and action. For a painter like Steele, each mark laid down is a prompt for the next. An initial decision propels others in her work. Gestures are employed in the moment to push or pull at a thing that’s not quite right. New forms can be risky – the ruination of what was in the hope of what might be. And her colour is so surprising, a chromatic challenge, as it modulates across variations in surface and hue.
The paintings are mostly squares this time, a way to counter the horizon and move beyond figure and ground. The square is good for this, being the realm of pure abstraction. In Steele’s work the format suggests an expansive continuum which pulls its references in from different scales: the everyday, the spectral, the biological. The square suggests motion, a complex in-between of matter and air, where clustered forms release fugitive shapes that bend and recalibrate. She speaks of a tangle:
… in that process I have created this snarl of marks and shapes ... it’s a familiar way of working I realise, to go past lightness and fluidity into this tangle and then to carve space out somehoShe works in this state of painterly volition, seeking out and then shifting with colour, pushing against any detection of habit-forming gesture. The wonder is that even with this diverse exploration it is all so definitively the work of Mignon Steele.
Paintings often emerge in an interplay with music, rhythm and language, but Volition has arrived in relative silence. She has found a new studio where bird-sound and incidental atmospherics offer a punctuated dialogue. This morning I am a visitor and while we’re talking, she moves back to a painting to continue working. She is trying to solve a puzzle, hard to put words around how, by applying richer paint that causes existing marks to shift and settle. Now the painting feels newly established. Our conversation might be today’s way of coaxing out a surprise move.
Mignon Steele’s recent exhibitions include shows in Melbourne and Sydney. Her ongoing collaboration as a colourist with Barnacle Studios works in parallel. She shifts effortlessly from her well-established painting practice to mural work on architectural walls and other surfaces, permanent or transitory.
Volition is Mignon Steele’s second solo exhibition at The Egg & Dart.
This exhibition opens Wednesday the 29th May with the opening night on Friday the 31st May, 6-8pm.