Striking sculptural paintings exploring loneliness during the lockdown


“I sometimes find that writing alongside art can alienate the viewer rather than encourage and stimulate thought,” explains the London painter. Marie ramsden. “I wanted to draw people into the conversation rather than leaving them out. “

The artist talks about Blunt instrument, a book of his recent paintings featuring texts by nine writers – including Daisy Lafarge and Rebecca Watson – due out later this month. The art on display was made during the UK lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, in response to his sense of isolation. Ramsden painted those he missed as if they were there with her, and asked writers to respond to themes of reverence, friendship, and connection. Blunt instrument is essentially the story of how the pandemic bonded a group of writers, brought together by a lonely painter.

Ramsden, who studied at the Royal Academy Schools in London and is represented by Pilar Corrias (London) and Wentrup (Berlin), has spent his career using paint almost exclusively. In Blunt instrument, she looks at a range of materials, including wood and metal, which introduce a more sculptural quality. Each piece was created with the intention of capturing the essence of their namesakes – the friends he missed so much – although Ramsden wasn’t comfortable with them being labeled as abstract portraits. “It hurts me a bit to call them totally abstract,” she explains. “It seemed to me that if a person’s mind or attitude had any visible color or materiality, then it would be representative. “

Ramsden has passed two closures in central London and another in rural North Yorkshire. Between her time in the studio, she read avidly – poetry, essays, fiction – and was increasingly concerned with making connections with those whose words she read. “I initiated discussions with writers grappling with concerns close to mine. As these conversations developed and became more dynamic, I thought it was important to find a way to host these dialogues side by side, ”she says. “So, I invited each writer to build a piece of writing on the back of our discussions.”

All the writers of Blunt instrument are female, which is conspicuously a coincidence, but a Ramsden has ruminated since the book was printed. Empathy, she believes, could be at the heart of it all. After all, it is empathy that is buried deep within his work and gives him the ability to embody or imitate the other, to try to understand him from the inside. “I find empathy to be a fascinating human emotion that can be both essential and problematic,” she says. “Maybe that’s a huge generalization, but I find women can have overly empathic tendencies. So it seemed appropriate that writers were female voices.”

The writing presented ranges from notes, to short poems, to long passages of fiction. In particular, she cites Daisy Hildyard’s comments on shamanic behavior as “a very rich parallel between my approach and solitary activity – but also, sometimes, performative – in the studio”. Likewise, Ramsden says that the poetry submitted by Rebecca Tamás and Genevieve Stevens echoes the abbreviated language used in her own work. There are also notes that Chloe Aridjis wrote while working on her novel. Sea monsters which Ramsden particularly likes for their “state of perpetual flux.”

Far from exercising puppeteer control over the writers, Ramsden was happy to leave them a long leash, as she was convinced that she had chosen them for a valid reason in the first place. “But I enjoyed the surprise of what happened,” she says. And not knowing what to expect is one of the most seductive things about Blunt instrument. Add to that the fact that this is a limited edition and you have to request a copy rather than buying one from Amazon, makes it all the more special: a work of art in itself.

Blunt instrument, launched on October 30, 2021, will have a limited edition of 50 copies. All are signed and numbered by the artist, and designed and produced by Book Works London. Copies can be purchased by contacting Mary Ramsden through her official website.


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