Ena Swansea

Ena Swansea
Big Ocean, 2005
Oil and graphite on linen
266.7 x 381cm

In Big Ocean, Ena Swansea’s sublime seascape churns with imposing threat, while her frail figure treads precariously against the rising tide. Working in light against a dark ground, Swansea’s diaphanous surface suggests penetrable and shifting depths beneath her ephemeral forms. Using qualities of painting as a metaphor for psychological tension, Swansea offers vulnerability as a platform for self-knowledge, creating an ease with uncertainty, beauty in the spontaneity of gesture. Within this vast and irresolute field Swansea transfixes space and time, creating an unsettling plane where ominous ambiguity ebbs into tranquillity and solitude.

Ena Swansea
Theory of Relativity, 2004

305 x 198cm

Ena Swansea builds her paintings up in canorous layers, combining the illusive quality of oil paint with the deadened effect of graphite. In Theory of Relativity, Swansea’s process creates an ethereal architecture. Over her dark, smothering base, each brushstroke of white paint is frozen, capturing the energy of its making. Swansea concocts a tenuous anxiety: her gestures vibrate with an unnatural light, infusing this innocuous scene of commuter travel with surreal disorientation. Dwarfed in the engulfing train carriage, Swansea’s figure is both victim and manipulator, her environment aggrandised in the hyperawareness of her own fragility.

Ena Swansea
Agent, 2004

244 x 152cm

Reminiscent of Impressionist paintings, Ena Swansea’s Agent invokes a timeless sentiment. Working against a blackened ground, Swansea uses paint in the negative process of pastel drawing. Painting from memory rather than photographs, Swansea conjures her image from a subliminal void. Instead of solidifying form, her colours replicate light itself: shimmering highlights and reflections of surfaces refract from objects not physically rendered. Through this romanticised suggestion, Swansea’s figure lingers with ghost-like presence, her Arcadian charm elucidating from what isn’t there.

Ena Swansea
Shadow and Reflection, 2005
2005, Oil and graphite on canvas
279 x 203cm

Ena Swansea’s Shadow and Reflection contains a duplicitous, otherworldly quality. Swansea captures the nuance of dreamy environment with impressionistic fervour: the watery ground churns with underlying graphite texture, descending into a scratchy ambiguous mist. An oil-spill glare of coloured light becomes a consuming fixation. Spellbound, it holds her figure in mystical sway: impossibly showing presence, reflection, and ominous shadow as fractured sense of self; a sublime landscape of inner contemplation.

Ena Swansea
World Headquarters, 2005

244 x 152cm

In World Headquarters, Ena Swansea wittily depicts the seat of power as an order of feminine calm: a languishing fantasy of lifestyle image cum pink-phoned gossip centre. Swansea’s dark hues inject the scene with a half-serious gravitas; her idyll daydream a source of empowerment and innuendo. Within the seductive black abyss, Swansea renders an abstracted reflection as both portrait and vagina. Alluding to the sexual nature of the subconscious, Swansea emulates the workings of psychological motivation through her fluid painting style: her hurried brushwork constantly shifting in a current of flux of meandering desires.

Ena Swansea
Gay Wedding, 2004

244 x 183cm

In Ena Swansea’s Gay Wedding, the artist draws unexpected narrative from painterly abstraction. Playing light against dark, Swansea’s forms billow and writhe with delicate fancy: fairytale ‘goddesses’ of chastity, unblemished in their virginal gowns. Enshrined in silvery celebration, Swansea’s scene is contorted with a certain stiffness: staged like actors in a play, the figures’ choreographed position carries underlying significance. Redolent of Paula Rego’s scenes of contemporary mythology, Swansea’s monumental burlesque brides convey tumultuous undertones: demur beneath their flouncy parasol, wristwatch hidden behind a back, Swansea portrays glorified romance as a folly of seduction.

Ena Swansea
Portal, 2003

152 x 183cm

The subject of Ena Swansea’s paintings is found as much in her technique as in her depicted images. In Portal, she exploits the malleability of paint as a means to embody a filmic drama: beneath the varying thickness of her oily brushwork is an entrancing undertow of emotional hesitancy. Formulaic elements of fiction are constructed with painterly sophistication. The elongated composition, and juxtaposition of overpowering shadow to a withering, distant supernal light, draws the heroine into a sinister destiny: placing the viewer in the position of prime suspect.

Ena Swansea
World Wide Web, 2004

198 x 305cm

The magic of Ena Swansea’s paintings resides in her use of rich materials to create resounding psychological environments. Working in oil paint over a graphite ground, Swansea allows the unpredictable qualities of her media to clash with a physical tension. In World Wide Web, her silver-black surface has a metallic and dusty sheen, the uniquely gritty and greasy texture of the graphite both refracting and consuming light. Masked by breezy layers of oil paint, figures emerge as ghost-like contours, suspended in dream-space. World Wide Web captures a refracted sense of time and space, where frail figures inhabit a world that is treacherously emotive and unstable.


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