VIKY GARDEN – AN UNTRADITIONAL LOOK AT PORTRAITURE
By Rosalind Spratt
Auckland artist Viky Garden, has in her two years of exhibiting clearly established her own distinctive style of painting, with much of her figurative work coming directly from her own environment, with it being portraiture of friends and self portraits.
Garden was born in 1961, grew up in Wellington in the suburb of Miramar, where she completed her education at St Catherine’s Catholic Convent.
In two recent works “Fat Madonna” and “Mary with Tattooed Mother”, both these works use Christian beliefs as starting points for the portraits, yet both show the Virgin Mary in totally unconventional portrayals: the “Fat Madonna” is seen naked except for her blue head dress and is shown heavily pregnant whilst the “Mary with Tattooed Mother” depicts the serene Mary with the word “mother” tattooed in a florid pattern on her partially exposed breast. In these works as within many of Viky’s more recent work, her refreshing incorporation of wit is clearly evident.
Though competent at art throughout school, Viky only started painting again in 1988. Her “Self Portrait with Earrings” was the result of her husband’s prompting to acquire some artwork to decorate the walls of their Sandringham home. Viky decided to paint something herself. The resulting work was so successful that she decided to enter the work in the ASA Nola Holmwood Award for Portraiture in March 1988. The work was highly commended by the judge, which encouraged Viky to start painting seriously again. By August 1988 Viky had been elected a Working Member of the ASA Gallery and was regularly exhibiting in their group shows. At the invitation of the ASA Gallery, Viky held her first solo exhibition entitled “Paintings” in March 1989, which was then followed by her second show “Private Works” in November 1990.
The second show comprised of twelve works which look at the fragmented nude female body. This series was intended to be very personal. By choosing to use herself as the model, Viky re-enforces that intimacy. In none of the works does the model look directly at the viewer, instead expression is suggested through the gestures of the fragmented limbs. The body parts have been placed within white spatial backgrounds, which serve to emphasise the body and the gestures.
Viky talks of her desire for the series to evoke a reaction from the viewer, to suggest a certain vulnerability of the naked female form, to depict the female form with a serenity and a sensitivity that is understood by women artists, in contrast to the stereotypical portrayal of the naked female form that has been used by so many male artists in the past.
The series, when exhibited did in fact evoke very different reactions from male and female audiences. Many women found the works to be tender and thought provoking, whereas a large proportion of the male audience found the works too confrontational and subsequently found the viewing of the works difficult.
Like many artists still establishing themselves in the market, the necessity to work part time limits Viky’s available time for painting, to only two days a week. This means another show of her work is not probable until next year.