100 Works of Art: (Visual) Balancing Girl, Jamie McKelvie

The 100 Works of Art series of posts is about personal relation to specific works of art. This is the penultimate post in the (Visual) section and then I will move on to talking about music. The first post in the series is about Black Virtue by Matta.

24. Balancing Girl, Jamie McKelvie (2010)

Like the subject of the last post in this series, the artist here is a friend of mine, someone I’ve known since about 2004 and, like Gillian Blekkenhorst & Shy Custis, watched develop and improve and evolve his art style over the course of the years. In all of these cases I suppose you could say that part of what makes me attached to these specific works of art is not just the art itself but the whole story of progression and how practice and study pays off in more and more impressive skills. It is also easy to see a link, aesthetically, between the clean lines and muted shadows of McKelvie’s work and one of the earlier featured artists, Matthew Woodson and that’s because my taste should be quite predictable by now!

Balancing Girl, Jamie McKelvie, 2010

There are a number of immediately attention-grabbing things about this picture: the incongruous pose is only one of them. There is the incredible detail, the contrasts – the relative brightness of the girl’s hoodie against the pale town – and the recognisibility, for me at least, of the houses. They are familiar in their architecture, and there’s always something very comforting about that.

The composition really appeals to me too: she’s set against the sky, like she might take flight at any moment. As soon as her nervousness about being on a telegraph pole disappears, you think, she’ll soar away into the cloudless blue with her shoelaces trailing and her hood flapping in the wind. You’re not looking at her from the ground, but rather from an upstairs window: maybe the opposite row of houses to the one you can see. Perhaps she climbed up there: perhaps she just found herself up there after a bout of unexpected flying. The shadows give the impression of a particular time of day – coupled with the colour of the sky it feels like an early summer morning. Has she been up there half the night? She looks too surprised for that.

Warm familiarity and a hint of mystery, the cleanness and marriage of the mundane and the unusual make this picture stand out among the many, many works of Jamie’s I’ve seen, and evidently a lot of people agreed with me as the print run disappeared quite fast.


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