small worlds as seen through painted veils...
Ever-changing figures, faces, sunsets, skies and sea-scapes are painted and drawn by Alexi Willemsen in fluid states of perpetual instablity. Heads and shoulders float amongst dark clouds, men slowly shake hands, suns slowly rise and fall, women float upon their backs. Simple interactions and natural phenomena appear tremulous and transitory as they are wrested from light and shade, appearing and disappearing. Ordinary actions, attitudes and postures slowly come into focus, children and swimmers sometimes populate these ephemeral spaces. Filmy mists and clouds partially conceal water, stars, trees and sands.
Frequently small in scale, Willemsen’s oils on canvas or linen fill with light, they seem over-exposed, washed-out and shimmering. Shadows and forms slowly appear, reflecting and refracting varicoloured light that is built up in scores of intricate brush-strokes. A pastel palette of pinks, yellows, blues and violets is layered with a sparkling lightness of touch that belies the amount of labour required for such elaborate paintings. Slight sketches in pencil on paper demonstrate the importance of draughtmanship to Willemsen’s practice and besides these careful drawings are more impromptu studies on paper in inks and gouache. Sometimes these are dark, seeping and stained with paint, at other times they are painted traces that economically capture a moment, a gesture, an expression.
Rainbow-bright, Willemsen’s paintings are quiet odes that contain shards of stories. The inhabitants of these border territories materialise, shimmering and vulnerable within uncertain landscapes. Fragments of events can be glimpsed through fractured, diaphonous painterly surfaces. These surfaces, gently constructed from layer upon layer of individual brushtrokes create veils or milky filters through which one can glimpse this painter’s fleeting observations. Overall, what is captured again and again is a dreamy ambiguity, an ethereal play between opacity and transparency, solidity and atmosphere, permanence and incertitude.
New Zealander Alexi Willemsen (b. 1984) currently lives and works in Sydney, Australia. She graduated from Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, in 2008 with a Postgraduate Diploma and since then has exhibited in private galleries both nationally and internationally. Willemsen works with the Sydney-based artists collective Studio 217 and recent exhibitions include: image of light, adieu (Melanie Roger Gallery, 2012), Alexi Willemsen | Ruth Thomas-Edmond (Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland, 2011). She has also exhibited within curated exhibitions and group shows includng SUMMER EXHIBITION (Melanie Roger, 2011), Christmas Group Show (Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland, 2010) and Christmas Group Show (Studio 217, Sydney, 2010). Willemsen has already received private commission and significant recognition, her work was included in To Some Place (Creative New Zealand, Auckland, 2007). She also exhibited within the Finalist Exhibition as part of the Norsewear Art Awards in Hawkes Bay, 2007 and at the Mazda Emerging Artists Exhibition (Auckland, 2006).
Alexi Willemsen has a solo exhibition with Melanie Roger Gallery in February 2021.