In Victoria’s ArtHall, a wonderful airy white gallery space with bright blue doors and windows just steps from it-Tokk, this month as part of an exhibition ‘Erotic Cravings’ (runs until 7th April), there’s a large painting by Tomas Hed inspired by the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan in which the god Zeus, in the form of a swan, ‘seduces’ the young woman Leda.
Hed’s paintings are always colourful and characterful with an imaginative backstory. Although the ‘seduction’ is rather sinister in some retellings*, Hed’s painting reinterprets the softer approach to the story with sumptuous jewel-like colours and fresh white feathers, against which Leda lies: she’s a tasteful nude resplendent in her repose. Leda was the mother of Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman on earth so legends tell, and you can see the genes in this painting: Leda’s face is framed by golden curls and pearl-drop earrings, the trace of a smile playing on rose-red lips, her fine form arching against the swans powerful frame. It’s a beautiful strong and timeless painting which would look great against crisp white walls or the golden limestone of a Gozitan razzet.
What I find myself particularly drawn to, however, is the small sequence to the right of the main piece; each a re-imagining of the larger painting in different styles, and for me they’re a fascinating illustration of the way an artist’s work can turn and twist whether that’s into vivid evocative gold and white brushstrokes of abstract expressionism or a crisp and geometric modern abstract.
In the same exhibition, a series of striking black and white nudes in acrylics by Penny Foster boast a rich luminosity. These paintings balance an everyday twenty-first century sensuality and a touch of sauce with the aesthetic of black and white fine art photography: there are strong tonal contrasts as the light falls on the model from above, illuminating the darkness around her. And for The Boat-building Significant Other there are also some light-hearted anatomical sculptures in wood, metal and ceramics which take the human form on an imaginative maritime journey, a craving The Significant Other completely understands.
(*including the classic poem written by WB Yeats and Elizabeth Kostova’s The Swan Thieves – the perfect novel to engross any art-enthusiast and one of my all-time favourites.)