British painter Clare Goodwin (b. 1973) moved to Switzerland in 2003 and for much of the time since has practiced a hard-edge, color-block style of abstraction that refers to the work of Zurich Concretists (Max Bill, Verena Loewensberg, et al.) while also strategically employing color to connect with aspects of everyday life—by using, for example, the dated tones, like magnolia or avocado, that marked a generation of British kitchens and bathrooms. In recent years, she seems to have gained a certain confidence that has allowed her to experiment with figuration and with messier techniques than those seen in her prior work.
Walking into the front gallery of Lullin+Ferrari for Goodwin’s exhibition “Whispering Widows,” which comprised works she made this year, the viewer was enveloped in a stifling atmosphere: pale pink film on the window cast the room in too-warm light, and the white-painted floor gleamed harshly. In keeping with the image of gossiping singletons conveyed by the exhibition title, the curved forms depicted in the two paintings on view in this space suggest curtains. The paintings’ titles include the names of people: one of the works, featuring heavy black and gray stripes suggesting pleated drapes, is called Whispering Widows (Kirsty), while the other, its black form evoking a curtain blown slightly upward by a breeze, is Whispering Widows (Helen + Terry). On the white grounds behind the precise shapes of these compositions are spidery ink washes—pink tones in the former, gray and pink in the latter. While the works have little in common stylistically with Edward Hopper’s paintings, they demonstrate a similar interest in windows as charged liminal zones.
The paintings shown in the main room belong to the same series as the previous two and involve the same techniques and forms, but the ingredients come together as abstraction. A chalky pastel color range dominates these works—pale but saturated, with evocations of sugary confections or scented powder in the boudoir. Dotted around the gallery were six small sculptural works—unstable structures comprising two or three sanded chair limbs, propped awkwardly on the floor or leaning on walls. Each is titled Silent Witness, after a British crime drama about forensic pathologists; while the palette of the paintings suggests middle-class values of keeping up appearances, the sculptural characters seem made for edgy kitchen sink drama instead.
The final chapter of this tight exhibition consisted of eight framed collages, titled “Cut-Outs,” displayed in the gallery’s office. Again, the colors are pastels. Goodwin applied acrylic paint to paper with a roller, then cut the paper into shapes and layered the pieces into lyrical compositions in which form, color, paper grain, and depth all play parts. Here, more of her likely influences can be read, from erstwhile Zurich resident Hans Arp’s reliefs to British painter Ben Nicholson’s paintings of Cornwall. But the results are Goodwin’s own. In the collages, she seems to continue exploring the theme of the domestic seen elsewhere in the show—the idea of home as a place in which we present our sense of ourselves and from which we observe the world—but to distill it even further, using potent expressions of form and color to create striking, graphic compositions.