Fionn Wilson

The Light Weight Secret of Bodies

There’s a kind of dialectic to much of British painting. On the one hand a kind of obsession with the accurate representation of the visual, which compared to mainland European painting seems retrograde and somewhat old fashioned. On the other hand there is a preoccupation with mass. With the weight of it all.

It was Einstein who told us that E=mc2, that mass can be transformed into pure energy. To light. Which, it often seems to me, is what Fionn Wilson’s painting is all about: transforming weight into light, most often the weight of the female body. It makes her part of a long British tradition that prominently includes such painters as William Turner, David Bomberg and Frank Auerbach. In fact, it was Bomberg who came up with the perhaps most apt expression for what this tradition is all about, "the spirit in the mass". The light weight secret of land and of bodies.

Whereas Turner lets it explode into abstraction and Auerbach seeks to sort of entomb and preserve the light in layers of paint, Ms Wilson also wants the sex of it - which, I become more and more convinced, is the real challenge she faces in her painting: how to make the Einsteinian formula balance so that we get the light but still enough mass and weight to maintain the sensuality?

In this particular painting, I think she has managed to do just that. It’s a heavy body turned into light and the movements of light – but still, it’s a sensual body. As simple as it might seem, with its Turner colours and Picasso-like crudeness it carries a whole lot of history, including that of the Art Brut movement. However, the exact point of this kind of painting is to transcend the history of things, the history of what weighs, in order to get to the beauty of what is permanent or perhaps even infinite, the energy or the spirit.

Which is just another way of saying, of course, that it is a kind of painting driven by longing.

Bo Gorzelak Pedersen,
Art critic for the Danish art paper Kunstavisen