We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time…
And all shall be well and
All manner of things shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
Little Gidding V, Four Quartets
— T.S. Eliot (1943)
We greet the New Year with fire. When the clock strikes midnight – when the past, present and future meet in one perfect moment – explosions of green, gold, red and blue light up night skies across the world. Symbolically fire is a destructive but purifying force. At the New Year we use fireworks to metaphorically burn the previous year to make way for new perspectives, new resolutions and new hopes for the year to come. A necessary part of this purge is reflection, where have we been, what have we learned and how will we take those lessons forward?
T.S. Eliot’s Little Gidding poem, from which this exhibition and Gretchen Albrecht’s painting The Fire and the Rose take their name, uses fire as an symbol of clarity in the pursuit of redemption through an understanding of the past and its impact on the present and future. Albrecht’s The Fire and the Rose demonstrates this unification through the masterful way in which she merges warm yellows, burnt oranges and blush pinks. In this painting the fire and the rose are one.
The exhibition, drawn from the Sarjeant Gallery’s collection, provides a glimpse into Albrecht’s use of colour and form as allegory. The hemispherical painting Annunciation relates to the Biblical heralding of Mary as the soon-to-be mother of the Christ child. A popular subject in Renaissance paintings, Albrecht uses the traditional colours employed by these 16th Century artists to indicate the Virgin Mary, pink and blue, to present the story as a halo on the gallery wall.
The works in this exhibition are presented according to the artist’s choice of colour palette and the palpably emotive quality of her colour fields. Whether recognisable imagery, such as Woman, Red Bird, Night and Table Cloth with Curtains, or abstract and expressionist like Garden no.11 and Drift II, Albrecht’s works highlight the power of colour on our psyche. Deep purples, serene creams, fiery reds and crisp greens draw the viewer in as they soothe and excite.