Professor of Visual Culture, Norwich University of the Arts
I AM A PAINTBRUSH’, says Anna-Lise Horsley. It’s the moment a painter stops wondering what to paint next, and follows the instinct of colours on a palette, of shapes and mistakes already on the canvas, the insistent throb of an image with its own secret logic. In this ecosystem, everything is ravaged by beauty, pulsing with a pleasure that could tip over into calamity at any moment.
Layers of paint jostle together, often painted in quite different styles, each one a moment in the work’s unfolding existence. You can watch each painting thinking, but in the way that thoughts are often disordered, alternating clarity and chaos, pairing ideas that shouldn’t go together, entertaining wicked notions. It’s the teeming state of a mind at the instant before thoughts take shape to form a sentence; the split-second feeling when looking down a microscope as a tiny world you never suspected suddenly grows to the size of a city, with a slang and a night-life of its own. That Victorian fascination with the Language of Flowers – where each bloom is a symbol for an emotion – opens onto the babble of a hundred tongues, all loosened by desire: it’s an orchid that sings opera, a strand of coral that tells risqué jokes.
Pictures like a drunken memory of bees pollinating flowers, of old wallpaper torn away to reveal even older wallpaper (and then in turn the anatomy beneath the plaster like the secret insides of a body), of a dive into a reef that turns out to be a galaxy or a petri dish. Suddenly, in the artist’s words, ‘it takes over’ and a ‘strange balance’ wins the day.
Anna-Lise paints with fluidity and instinctive conviction. The powerful, hypnotic content of her images emerges through relentless dedication and daily engagement between mind, paint and brush allowing the ideas to take over, creating a doorway to an internal and out of control place where shapes and patterns form a dialogue, where the chaotic imaginary occasionally meets the recognizable. Forms appear, then are drowned only to reappear elsewhere in other paintings.
They have gone viral: the images run away from reality on an uncontrollable journey. Re-cycled paint fragments fly from one image to another, ideas are buried under layers of paint and risk-taking technique. There is an energetic, raw power in her paintings, it explodes, producing unimaginable and multiple visions of brilliance, expertise, limitless opulence, depth and decadence.
Anna-Lise obsessively produces a visual poetry writhing with jewels in a rampage of techno-colour and distortion, an expression of the raw, visceral layers of the unconscious, a wild cacophony of beauty, disgust and at times unapologetic ugliness in an explosion of movement and fantasy. Shapes move, repeat and reflect, jumping from one painting to another; a chemical reaction begins and a chain of unimaginable events unfold, driving the production of the images which change and progress over years of development taking the viewer to an uncanny, spectacular, persistently challenging and uneasy space.