Home is Where the Heart is

Gallery Momo, Johannesburg, South Africa

Essay by Greg Streak

Bronwen Vaughan-Evans’ current body of work titled – "home is where the heart is" (2007-2008) – could best be understood as the excavation of interstitial spaces; physical, emotional and geographic.

Vaughan-Evans explores the fine line between the physical and psychological spaces that map the complexity of who we are. The works have a clarity and seduction that could easily render them as purely aesthetic, like so much other process driven work. But it is here that one really needs to look deeper. The surfaces are so rich and compelling that one could quite easily fall into the trap of becoming complacent. The works themselves are about looking; looking literally below the surface of the characters she uses as conduits for meaning. Each portrait in the series is of someone that has a direct relationship to the artist – beginning with family and friends and moving slightly outward to those she interacts with in her immediate world (colleagues etc.). The surfaces on which she articulates them are a direct physical equivalent of that person’s space in the world (according to their height and width). Within this physical space, however, the psychological nuances play themselves out. Each character is assigned a form of actual representation coupled with a more abstract representation of how Vaughan-Evans interprets the character or being of that person.

The actual surfaces of the work are built up layers of gesso, into which the artist sands back to begin to uncover the real person. It is the process of peeling back and scarring layers of flat surface that reveal the portraits and their position and subsequent meaning in the world. Process is therefore intimately linked to content.

As a body of work in space, each surface begins to resemble a building or some form of vertical architecture, and together they seem to articulate the idea of a cityscape. The people have become the environment they inhabit. As the viewer, we are allowed the opportunity to meander through this cityscape and become witness to the intimacy of the lives within it and what lies beneath its façade. We discover people and places marked out through different signifiers – a section of a detailed aerial map, a dark brooding cloud, a minuscule cityscape floating in mid-air, the hint of a landscape, two dogs fighting their own shadows, an aeroplane lost in flight …

"Home is where the heart is" - takes us on an elaborate journey; a journey that begins out in the world – in anonymous space - and slowly brings us home to something more intimate. The real strength of this extensive body of work lies in Vaughan-Evans’ ability to manipulate both space and surface, to the extent that we as the viewer have traversed so much marked and contested ground without feeling that we have actually left home. The gallery becomes a universal space within which we explore a cityscape of emotional, psychological and geographic trajectories that bring us closer to an understanding of ourselves. Leaving a feeling that perhaps the heart is where the home is.

Greg Streak
May, 2008

Go to Article in Garden and Home Magazine June 2008