Myths and Psychology…the figurative work of Pauline Rignall
“Myths are dramatised psychology, an expression of the inner life through the creative imagination. They are both universal and personal, being symbolic of the patterns and energies operating in the cosmos in society and the individual.” Pauline Rignall
There was nothing ‘mythical’ about my recent pre-arranged meeting with Pauline Rignall at her cottage studio nestled among the very lovely and quintessential English Derbyshire hills. As I stepped off the train Pauline was waiting to greet me at the gate of the small country railway station. In less than a few minutes we were both seated at her dining room table enjoying coffee and a piece of home made cake, talking about Art in general and painting in particular. Pauline is a gentle sensuous soul, one that is reflected in many of her paintings, albeit not that obvious to the casual observer of her figurative work. However, her landscape painting do reflect a serenity and an appreciation of the beauty of the nature that surrounds her.
Pauline’s has a deceptive strength of character that is partially masked by a playfulness and genuine love of Art and literature. I first became aware of her as an artist when she contacted Tubes with a submission to be included in the ‘landscape’ feature of 2017 (issue # 5). Unfortunately the magazine was oversubscribed with hundreds of landscape painters examples, so it was impossible to include them all, Pauline never made it into that issue. However, among the landscapes were one of two figure paintings that intrigued me and I contacted her to discover more. Over a few months she posted some examples of work that she returned to after some time. Pauline explained that they was a recent moment of inspiration which spurred her to ‘take-up’ figure painting once more.
“…a recent inspiration has been an ancient Sumerian myth documented by the psychologist, Sylvia Brinton Perera in “Descent To The Goddess.”
Pauline explained further….
“..it centres around the Goddess Innana; the sky goddess who visits her sister Ereshkigal in the underworld. This drama later evolved into the myth of Persephone and Pluto. I found the image of Innana being left naked to die on the stake, emerged into my painting. This symbolises the female cross and prefigures Christ and Odin. She is the ancestress of the Gnostic Sophie. It is a complex myth connecting the dark side of the feminine which has been outcast in the social and internalised structure of patriarchy.”
For readers not familiar with ancient writings on this subject, the basis of the myth is to put over the message for a journey we all should perhaps take and at the end of the journey, ask ourselves, what is the meaning of life? Although the stories that sprang from the Goddess are varied and have other ‘shades of meaning’ interpreted from them, Pauline has considered and absorbed into her work contemporary reasoning, like male and female relationships, exposure of the soul, independence of mind and freedom of the female spirit, all of which is personified in her paintings. Which are painted with vigour and energy.
** “…Ereshigal is Innana’s dark compliment… her shadow. Together the goddesses make up the bipolar complete pattern of the archetypal feminine. I hope to be exploring further the symbols of the snake, as wisdom and the Goddess.”
Her colour palette is dominated by a rich blue, a colour that the Ancient Greeks regarded as Holy. A fact I discovered from my years living on a Greek island as a ‘Kaliteknis’ [Greek for artist]. Perhaps it was the colour of her figure painting that attracted me? After our brief discussions at the dinner table we ventured upstairs to her Studio where I found the walls to be covered in her new work, some almost finished some still very much in progress. Pauline talked me through her process as I looked at the work in the flesh for first time. There is something luxurious and sensual about her painting. I found them to be strangely relaxing, although the ‘back-story’ of some of them may not have been intended to be so.
We talked about how, over the centuries, society has developed to condition us in what we can and what we cannot openly display or discuss, or indeed even use metaphors for, be it physical sexual experiences or sensations. The ancients seemed not to have that 19th century inbred psychobiological restriction as much as todays society seem to have, which is usually conveyed to us as behaving PC (politically correct).
As an artist Pauline is a deep thinker and it was refreshing for me to meet a contemporary artist that isn’t so overly self concerned with pleasing the crowd by painting images that are commercial, but using paint as an art form and as a mode of expressing classical ideas in a truly original and authentic manner. But, like us all, she has to pay the rent, put food on the table and buy essential raw materials to continue her quest of original art creation.
Pauline has been successful with a number of large paintings in galleries, the Cupola Gallery in Sheffield, the Bessemer Gallery, also in Sheffield, plus the Silson Gallery in Harrogate, to mention just a few. In late 2017, Pauline was also commissioned to create a large landscape painting (2000mm x 1000mm) for a client of the Rivers Edge Gallery, which is a sign of her broad public appeal.
It is a fact that many painters these days have difficulty placing their work in galleries, especially with the growing numbers of artists competing to interest galleries enough to show some of their work to the public, work that could bring welcome financial support. Fortunately, Pauline has managed to place a number of smaller landscape paintings in the Derwent Gallery recently, which is good news for her and to some extent pleasing for me, as many of her landscapes display the artistic bravado that can only come with a painter who has a natural gift and the in-depth experience that Pauline has gained over the years.
Our time together passed all too quickly and before long we headed back to the railway station, where I was to catch my train back to Manchester. We chatted as we made our way towards the station platform, and I talked of my own experiences of life and Pauline told me some of her own personal details, which was a discussion that will remain private between us. One snippet of information that I believe I can tell the reader and one I think is only known by a selected few people, is that many years ago, Pauline was the model for Leon Kossoff. Now of course, Kossoff is imitated by many painters, those artists who seem to put the emphasis on the saleability of that specific style, but when Pauline was a model for the originator, I suspect, he wasn’t admired, nor sold that much at all.
Maybe, Pauline was inspired by Kossof and his work? However, her process and method of painting is all her own. One day I do hope future painters will be admiring the work of Pauline Rignall with equal respect that is now afforded to Leon Kossoff, although I doubt that few could imitate her.
Denis Taylor Artist and Editor of Tubes magazine was talking with Pauline Rignall at her studio; March 21st 2018.