“I can’t say that I love it, but it feels wrong not to do it.”
Natalie Bruvels is standing in front of a 6-foot tall painting of two abstracted lovers, coiled in a passionate embrace. The figures are abstracted, but not beyond recognition. The palate is deeply playful, and a deliberate foil for the darker undertones of Bruvels’ series.
The show “Lovers’ Imbroglio,” opening this Thursday at Studio Sixty Six, will be the artists’ second to feature works painted over her ex-lover’s pieces. Her 2014 series “Goodbye, Lover” at La Petite Mort was the first to showcase what Bruvels describes as “an act of vengeance.”
After a 12-year relationship came to an end, the artist struggled, literally and figuratively, to work through it. In an act curator Rose Ekins calls “pragmatic” and the artist calls “self-preservation”, she reached for one of her ex-lover’s paintings and slowly resurfaced it to depict “jarring” imagery of oddly cubist couples, starkly portrayed in harsh lines and tones much darker than her current works. In this earlier series, the artist divulges, “to me, these are like, Papua New Guinea tribal masks… that’s what they remind me of. The whole purpose of those masks is to scare away evil spirits. That doesn’t exist in our society… just saying boo to whatever’s bothering you.”
The works now have shifted to figures in more balanced embraces, coloured in a buoyant palate. Bruvels credits a “chiropractic adjustment” for this shift in colour and a psychological place that shows her “in better shape”. For the artist, the resultant works feel like a healthier place, but she’s keen to remind us that the romantic surfaces ultimately still conceal the frenetic energy of vengeance. This fiery determination to cover all her ex’s paintings is also part of why Bruvels paints couples in coitus – that tension between the pain of their under-paintings and the lustful, seductive surfaces is, for the artist, what compels her, and what makes this series interesting.
Additionally enticing is the necessary end-game imposed by Bruvels’ finite number of canvases from her previous partner’s body of work. She is currently about halfway through and when they’re gone, the series is done. In the midst of this near compulsive act, the artist can’t guess as to the territory that she’s wading towards, or the resultant shifts the work may take.
“To go from jarring to more playful, romantic, loving was unexpected and I’m really happy that such a distinct transition occurred between those two showings… It’s easy to look at this painting and if you like the surface of it, you’re drawn to how romantic it is. But my hope would be that it’s never forgotten what lies beneath.”
My suggestion is to get to the opening this Thursday and spend some time having a good long look.
“Lovers’ Imbroglio” opens Thursday, September 8th, at 6pm. For more details on the vernissage, see the Facebook event.