My favorite painting: Rana Begum

Bangladeshi artist Rana Begum chooses Ellie MacGarry’s Hand Inside.

Rana Begum on hand inside by Ellie MacGarry

“I first encountered Ellie’s work at a Slade graduate show. I had no prior knowledge of her or her practice, but I was immediately drawn to the way she uses paint and color.I always like when a work engages me without context, when I can have a pure visual response.

There is a sensuality to Ellie’s work as she captures moments of touch, connection and bodily experience. There is always something that crosses a border, sometimes water; sometimes earth; sometimes clothes. This sensuality extends beyond the subject and into Ellie’s style of painting.

There is an alluring tactility in the surface. I think this is particularly evident in this work, which is part of a series of watercolours. There is a loose spontaneity in the medium as the colors blend into each other, creating a feeling of immediacy and physicality. You walk away feeling like you’ve been offered a momentary glimpse of something personal, let in.

Rana Begum is a Bangladeshi artist living and working in London. An exhibition of his work, “Dappled Light”, is at Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery through August.

Charlotte Mullins comments hand inside

The sober and delicate watercolors of Ellie MacGarry seem particularly suited to a world that had to curb its collective sociability for two years. Her recent “Hand Inside” series explores the power of touch in a time when hugging others and feeling skin against skin was nearly impossible.

In his paintings, people touch and explore themselves and their clothes, poking fingers between buttons and over shoulders. In this example, one hand moves up across the chest while another extends down into a translucent pocket. The thumbs stretch out towards each other, a moment of conviviality held in check by the little diamond of flesh that springs between the buttons of the shirt. “Every time I paint a garment on a body, she says, I see it a bit like a pair of curtains, in different states of opening and closing, revealing a glimpse of something behind.

In Miss MacGarry’s paintings there is an economy of means which is intentional. The bodies are asexual and anonymous and she cites the early 20th century photography of Claude Cahun as an influence. Despite their parsimony, his paintings are psychological explorations of identity and what it is to inhabit a body. She also draws her inspiration from music, cinema and clothing.

Before becoming an artist, Miss MacGarry wanted to work in fashion and a love of pattern and the qualities of fabric permeates her work. The hands in this painting are stylized and simplified, but the transparent shirt is a vivid malachite green cut with inky blue flecks.

About Catharine C. Bean

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