“The English don’t like originality very much in art.” Paule Vézelay
This week I’ve discovered a new abstract artist. It’s always satisfying to discover a painter whom you hadn’t previously known about and when this happens I become just a little bit obsessed!
Let me introduce you…her name is Paule Vézelay.
Some would credit her as the first British painter in 1929 to paint in the abstract style, but if this is the case why isn’t she better known? Why can’t I find more information about her?
The main body of my knowledge has come from the Germaine Greer documentary which portrays her as a private, straightforward and somewhat stubborn woman who was driven to pursue art throughout her life. Greer tries to get a feminist response to the limits imposed upon her in a male dominated time but Vézelay comes across as matter of fact about the cultural constraints which shaped her life and work. The changing of her name from Marjorie Watson-Williams she attributes more to the result of her Francophile tendencies than a desire to disguise her femininity, the fact that she didn’t marry more the result of happenstance than a liberation.
Paule’s art contains an abundance of constrained movement and space, reminiscent of music and dance. I find her thoughts on abstraction and her artistic influences fascinating, as is her insistence that art should be joyful. I love it when Paule talks about the creative muse, good and bad work. She recognises that art it is a process which needs to be worked through. There is a startling moment in the film when Germaine asks Paule how she values her work and the answer she gives is that she makes an informed guess. Despite the guess-work she is adamant that the price shouldn’t be reduced unless the artist is very hungry!
I can’t help but warm to this pragmatic, dryly droll and determined woman with her joyful work.