© Rebecca Sitar 2014
The Saying of Small Things
“…the great question that our culture faces now is whether its going to have the resilience to redefine itself and take off again.”
Metaphor: a figure of speech in which two objects are compared by identification or by the substitution of one for the other.
From : Literary Terms: A dictionary.
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In writing about Rebecca Sitar’s work in The Independent two years ago I asked: How do you paint memory and what does it mean for memory to be present in a painting? ‘Is memory always about nostalgia or is it rather an analysis of the very process of thinking, a way of ordering our experience of being in the world? It is axiomatic that we cannot make sense of the future, that the present is often confusing. Memory, therefore, becomes the mechanism by which we attempt to give shape and meaning to life; it shifts the wheat from the chaff.’ These points still seem appropriate when considering Rebecca Sitar’s paintings.
Her work is not easy. Hermetic and neither obviously figurative nor purely abstract
it does not sit conveniently within the orthodox vocabulary of much contemporary
art. That is not to say it is naïve, for it displays a subtle, knowing postmodern
detachment , despite its obvious lack of easy irony. Sitar has spent a long time
looking at Giotto and other pre-
Sitar’s painterly language and her strangely emblematic images are imbued with veiled meanings and resonate with compressed, yet oblique personal feeling. These are works that do not deal – despite the painterly marks and the layered acrylic’s luminosity –with surface but with depth. She talks of the desire to create a dialogue between form and metaphor in an arena that allows for a complex ritual of involvement to occur. But involvement with what ? And what are the complex rituals that she is attempting to create?
According to the French social philosopher Jean Baudrillard we do not have much of a future ahead of us Everything has become ‘ nuclear, faraway, vaporized.’ In his writings he argues that the ‘ maximum in intensity lies behind us’, while ‘ the minimum in passion and intellectual inspiration lie before us.’ Put it simply, he implies , that in this disenchanted modern world , culture has run its course. Many would argue that utopian visions now belong to history and that their reassertion smacks of romanticism. So what space can be carved out by an artist with a lyrical sensibility who still believes that art has the ability to be transformative and that the metaphorical resonances within painting continue to have the potential to explore authentic emotions in ways that words and language cannot?
Ectoplasmic, pale and delicate, the shapes in Rebecca Sitar’s paintings hover like
traces left on the retina as after-
Like the poet, Rebecca Sitar demonstrates a commitment to looking. To look becomes a form of meditation. Her work illustrates the transformative process from personal response through to the distillation and synthesizes of an experience into a painted surface. It is the process of reaching towards what cannot be quite expressed or said, rather than the arrival at a finite statement that is paramount. The haiku, that intense Japanese three line poetic form, might seem as an equivalent. The painter Prunella Clough, whose visual sensibility Rebecca Sitar to some extent shares, once said before her death : “I like paintings that say a small thing rather edgily.” It is the saying of small things that is so central to Sitar’s work.
Sitar’s forms are implicitly organic and emblematic, as if culled from some deep
archetypal image bank, yet it is the process of exploring these through the language
of paint that she moves them into an arena that is essentially metaphoric, where
the meaning resides not in a direct deconstruction or decoding of an image but in
the spaces and the silences she creates. She is forever striving to achieve a dynamic
equilibrium within a particular work, where the incongruous and disparate can co-
One day sitting on a Manchester bus she saw a young girl improbably decked out in
a blue feather boa. Prussian blue and the heavenly blue so prevalent in pre-
In The Plum Tree the shape of a tree is suggested not by the tree itself but by the
negative space left within the surround like the shadow on an x-
For art to have a continued relevance into the twenty first century it has to find
a new aesthetic language of interconnectedness, beyond the cynical, endlessly deconstructing
and commodified narratives of late postmodernism. As the American philosopher and
theologian David Ray Griffin points out in his essay ‘Peace and The Postmodern Paradigm’
we will not overcome our present frayed disconnectedness until we reject the view
of the world on which our current way of life is based. We live in transitional times
and have to make choices that involve not only politics but ethics and aesthetics.
Art has all too often become commodified, hijacked by the corporate collector and
the market. But it has a much older agenda; to be the barometer of the human spirit.
It is artists such as Rebecca Sitar, working on the margins, engaged with alternative
debates and paradigms, who try to say small but essential things with insight, who
still might point a way forward along a road not quite taken. What she paints is
certainly of the world but it is the poetic associative qualities of the objects
she paints that are important. It is the thought processes, which expand outward
from the subject, and to which these objects connect us -