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Abbie Twiss – Monochromes
February 19 @ 10:00 am – March 9 @ 3:30 pm
Abbie Twiss – Monochromes
Exhibition dates: 19 February – 9 March
Opening: Saturday 19 February 10am – 4pm
Street Front Space
With her older brother, Abbie Twiss would watch black and white films on Sunday afternoons, decades ago. Those memories have a spark of romantic nostalgia about them; the people, the different eras, fast-paced tap dancing, the changes in fashion and cultures.
Being a small child in the busy local Auckland art scene of the late ‘70s to early ‘80s, Twiss remembers being little, unable to see much of the artwork on the gallery walls, it was all just a sea of tall long legs with feet on the ground. They were up there conversing through spoken language. Twiss was just learning to communicate with Signed English for the Deaf, before the legitimate use of NZSL became the norm. She had to find her parents’ feet in those exhibitions in order to avoid getting lost or stepped on, so she went under dining tables, watching artists’ and writers’ noisy combined feet move and beckon each other.
This is Abbie Twiss’ first exhibition without colour, incorporating a range of early work and recent editions that sit on the periphery of her vibrant Pop Art-inspired practice.
Painted vignettes of early memories are reduced to a monochromatic palette here, like recollections in the mind’s eye that alter as the decades pass. Far from fading from view however, while the insignificant details of Abbie Twiss’ memories fall away and colours are lost to time, the key forms and emotions of a memory emerge in black and white.
Pin-up models with bare feet and bikinis. The artist’s older brother used to collect those 1950s pin-up magazines.
Crossed feet under the table.
A mafia leader’s shoes.
Twiss’ late birth-father’s leather boots on a chair. She did not grow up with him.
A faint memory of her grandmother’s shoes.
Ten years ago, Twiss was interested in a photograph of Paul Gauguin between his two children. She imagined that Gauguin seldom mentioned his exploits to his children who lived in Europe–they had not seen him very much during their lives when he was away in the Pacific. They possibly had no knowledge of his Tahitian models who became his lovers, which could have been on Gauguin’s own guilty conscience.
Twiss wanted to paint this idea somehow, to play with this portrait in painting and demonstrate use of enamel-acrylic paint with freehand sign-writing techniques and to let it bleed naturally. To find a wood board size that matched the mood, she looked in the studio and found a 15 year-old painting of an unlively portrait that was made at a young age. She attacked it, sanding it with an electric sander, took off the coloured oil paint surface from the wood board for a day and repainted it with enamel-acrylic white.
After constant thought for a few days, Twiss decided to add two of Gauguin’s models in the top row, above the artist and his children. The two models were known from being depicted in full colour, so painting them in monochrome felt more illuminating.
About the Artist:
Abbie Twiss holds a (BFA) Diploma in Painting from Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland, a Diploma in Computer graphic Design, and a Certificate in Sign Industry. She has exhibited extensively since the early 1990’s, her most recent show being a 2020 group exhibition ‘Hands in the Community – Capturing Sign Language Through Art’ at Hihihua Cultural Centre in Whangarei. Abbie Twiss first explored monochromatic techniques 20 years ago, enhanced by her knowledge of sign-writing techniques, though she is best known for her colourful Pop Art works that often incorporate humour or historic visual references.