A case for softness
Words don’t feel like the right medium to describe love. They’re too specific. Gestures or sounds might do a better job. The other thing about love is that it makes me think of loneliness. The two seem intertwined. Perhaps it is the aching reaching, a desire to connect deeply, yet the fear that it might be too exposing or initiate an inevitable end.
The polite way we’re generally encouraged to interact seems to fear what public intimacy might do. We all go about with an impression that we’ve got it together; rarely do we feel safe enough to come undone in the company of others. There is protection here, but this rigid politeness can also close us in and prevent the kinds of connections that give us meaning and support. True intimacy is possible through generosity, an ability to be seen and to have an interest, not a fear, in what might be there.
What does love enable us to do? Actions and gestures associated with love could be seen as going against what we’re made to think of as productive. Love allows connected idleness, quietness and playfulness. The visual language used to describe love is not generally associated with strength or knowledge.
Brigid Noone’s paintings boldly claim relationships as an intellectual framework and propose an ethics of care and inclusivity. Her practice consistently pushes against conventional understandings of work by forming communities that harness an ethos of open communication, proposing new ways of thinking and being. Brigid’s community is as much her material as painting. The observed spaces between people imagine what can be gained through innocence and letting go of forced composure. The quiet, idle and solitary moments are held by the safety of physical comfort. In these paintings it is furniture that supports the figures, but the idea of Fontanelle as an architectural sphere of support also comes to mind.
When verbal language is not adequate to describe experience, we speak through the body. The shifting, opening, leaning in that enables communication to flow or not. The figures in these paintings show unashamed vulnerability. The kind of vulnerability I sense as determined assuredness, a fearless openness to being exposed and inviting whatever that may attract. Social expectations of self-sufficiency and having it all together don’t tend to favour this way of being. To be vulnerable is to be weak. Brigid’s aesthetics of vulnerability fights against this rigidity and instead owns the idea of exposing oneself as a strength that can develop unique emotional knowledge and understanding of the motivations of behaviour.
‘Essays on Love’ captures quiet, subtle moments of human intimacy. Emotional states are paused to value their depth and impact. The sensitivity toward unexamined feelings exposes their complex inner workings. In ‘Frank’a child’s vacant stare is intimately familiar as if a feeling is projected in front of us. Whatever is on her mind is not the point but rather that we wholly relate to this relaxed sensation as a moment that creates space for new ideas and thoughts. Contemplative pause is also created in‘Christmas Day’. I imagine a hot day, my skirt hitched up but still a desire to be physically connected, the ease of just being with someone.
The silent intimacy of these paintings seems to sponsor the solitary unknowability of people in one another’s presence, as if true connection or understanding of oneself is found in allowing people to be as they are. There is a movement in the paintings that elicits an important intimacy that is only accessed through openness to exposure. I imagine a physical opening up, like the rings of colour on some of the figures. The paintings seem to reflect on elusive states of being through colour, blurred lines and hazy texture. The contrast of colour is important and has a peculiar way of eliciting a specific mood. Even the subtle fleshy tones of the side table in ‘Mamma’ feel like a buried bodily memory moving against the acid green of the present moment.
The delicate lines and intuitive colour and brush strokes reach for recognition through sensations. There is a dreamlike quality to the light hold on these elusive spaces that makes me consider how often we allow for the reflection that comes from inaction. Similarly to the figures that look down in contemplative pause, I also feel myself resting within.