Project no. 108  

Daphne Leighton

Images of thought

Curator: Rachel Sukman

Opening: Fri., 18 Dec. 2009, 11 a.m.
08 Jan. 2010   

Our new address: 6 Zamenhoff St. (near Dizengoff Square), Tel Aviv, tel.: 03-5254191
Gallery hours: Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.- 2 p.m., Mon.-Thurs. 5-7 p.m






What is she thinking about when she paints?

 Rachel Sukman

 Daphne Leighton was born in England and immigrated to Israel in 1980. She holds a Master's degree in English literature from the Hebrew University where she also taught for several years. She lives and paints in Jerusalem. Daphne studied with Orna Millo in Jerusalem; at the St. Ives School of Painting in Cornwall, England; in summer courses of the Dedalo Arts Center in Italy (where she also studied printmaking) and at the Slade School of Art in London. Her previous solo exhibition, "unknown familiar land", was curated by Orna Millo at the beginning of 2008  in  the Office in Tel Aviv Gallery. She is again exhibiting at the Office, in its new premises, where we can see her old-new ideas on painting. 

When we looked at her paintings together during my visit to her studio in Jerusalem, many questions arose which became an important part of our conversation about thought. Several of the questions concerned the words and sentences that Daphne draws as part of the internal structure of her paintings. Others touched on her life and the impact on her work of her frequent trips to England. The need to express ideas in her mother tongue, English, is evident in many of her recent works. Words and paintings are integrated in Leighton's means of expression. She draws her words on canvasses already covered with layers of paint, earlier images painted over with new ones. Leighton does not entirely cover the old with the new. She leaves herself and the viewer the possibility of seeing parts of the prior image in various ways: at times through transparency, at times by pasting strips of masking tape which are removed only towards the end of the process of painting. When she wants to leave the presence of the old painting under the new one, she uses thin layers of color on the new painting, inviting you to glimpse the hidden past: perhaps something that she wanted to forget and now cannot completely cover over. Thus, in her typically modest way, she allows a kind of gentle interpenetration and creates a duality of what is visible and what is hidden. This excites the viewer's curiosity to peek into her internal-external world. 

For the past two years, since her last exhibition, Daphne Leighton has been investigating the processes of thinking as "archaeological strata" (memories?  the unconscious?), as rational and associative connections and as bodily experience: "thinking  with the body". She paints in series, using her encounters with landscapes, thoughts, meetings and feelings to explore her subject. The series "thinking" comprises five numbered works. The first, "thinking 1", shows an image of a human head from which thoughts explode in all directions in the form of fine brushstrokes which look like tracks or strings of rational thought, perhaps because on the right side of the painting there is a mathematical equation whose entire purpose is to give visual expression to this kind of thinking. In relation to this painting, Leighton says that she thought of the metaphor of a marionette, a puppet operated by a world dominating the human mind. In this work there are two view points: the strings of thought coming out of the head and those entering and operating it. Their endless interplay creates the subject's thoughts.

In each of the paintings in the present series we see a human head or human figure. Leighton has tried to hide both from the viewer's eyes. But the fact that she and I stood in front the paintings talking about the dynamic human presence within the work is more than a hint that it is indeed there and even visible. The question arises, whether in truth the artist intended to hide this presence or, perhaps, as always, she is strumming the two strings of revealing and hiding at one and the same time.

 Leighton thinks in series: other series in the exhibition are "connections", "mapping" and "thinking with the body" all of which relate to aspects of the overall theme. One of the paintings in the last mentioned series began as a print that Leighton made whilst she was in England. The print was part of a series of three black and white monotypes inspired by the landscapes and seascapes of St. Ives on which she then worked in oils and pencil. The text inscribed on one of the prints provides more than a hint of what preoccupies her: "the river thinks her; she thinks the river". 

Through the layers, connections and mappings of thought depicted in Daphne Leighton's paintings, the viewer is allowed to share some of her thoughts on painting.