Prudence Flint mother's tankstation
Prudence Flintmother's tankstation
Prudence Flint, The Call, installation view, 2021. Courtesy the artist and mother's tankstation Dublin | London




Prudence Flint


There is pertinent purpose, an exactitude not only to all of Prudence Flint’s paintings, but to her apparently straightforward titling; The Visit, designating her first solo exhibition with mother’s tankstation, Dublin (2019), and The Call (2021), her subsequent show in mother’s London gallery. My meaning being, that for The Visit exhibition, it was the first time since studying art history that we had composed a text about the work of an artist we have not met. Skype/Zoom conversations don’t really count; they are as misleading as they are “leading” – with the slippages of distance and crucial fractions of time impacting upon nuance, the reading of reaction and vice versa (all of this was before lockdown, which of course changed the way in which the whole world had to communicate). A text notification from the artist beforehand to set up our initial “cyber-date”, was almost more revealing, as Flint wrote (no emojis), “I just want to hear what your voice sounds like”. The thought is inescapable, that we had just heard hers.






Prudence Flint then visited in person, for her Dublin show, from distance, almost as far as you can get in fact, from Ireland that is, before setting-out on a journey back home. So it is “fortunate” for us that the Melbourne-born and based painter, had knowingly or fortuitously laid a groundwork of insightful online interviews [1], that gave a strong sense of her established practice. Also given said distance (a hilarious German gallerist used to address letters to us, when we lived in Sydney, with deliberate irony, giving the country-designate as “Australien”), hence much of the content of this first text was necessarily gleaned from extant sources that we sort-of expected to necessarily fine tune or revise; based on personal encounter, once the artist arrived in person, but found that there was actually no need. Flint had covered the distance well, in all respects. Curiously, Australia has a common phrase for this particular temporal/spatial worry; “the tyranny of distance”, which accounts for why an artist can have a significant practice and reputation in one continent and be a complete discovery/mystery to most others. That said, there is something in the absence of presence that suits the mood of Flint’s eerie world of soft pastels, flat geometric surfaces, distorted perspectives and bodily bodies…[2]









To compound, and slightly paraphrase a number of questions posed as statements, from collective interviewers to Flint, which establish an irrepressibly singular impression; [why has she, or, how does she feel about…] having spent the past twenty years addressing paintings of a single female in an interior, sometimes groups, and occasionally outside… [?] There’s a simple poetry in the concise, prosaic, colourlessness of this ‘factually flat’ description of Flint’s collective practice that, through a suitable sense of repression, facilitates the magical logic and understated richness, at the heart of her paintings. Their mood is perhaps best described as “other”, but with contiguous, associative, hints of many things; the mood of Australian filmmaker, Paul Cox, slimmer but equally bodily stylizations that nudge, but equally don’t, towards an ‘idea’ of the Colombian painter Fernando Botero, contrarily there are thoughts of the spare angularity of Alex Katz, touches of Dorothea Tanning (but less consciously ‘strange’), Paula Rego (ibid), the late pink clothing heads of Louise Bourgeois (better), the influence of early Renaissance structures, faces, certainly fragmentary moments of the ‘lost’ paintings, of Frederick McCubbin and the Heidelberg school, the haze of mid-Modern interiors, the colour compositions arguably have something of the strict regularity of Mondrian, but on Prozac (soft-jazz mood muzak)… the list is long and none of it in any way accurate, right, as nothing actually looks or feels anything like a “Prudence Flint”, which is simply an extraordinarily rare thing to say. We hear what her voice sounds like.







As is clear, Prudence Flint’s painterly world is populated by women, whom, if they are doing, anything, it is little. Small things. The little they do do is also “ordinary”, of the everyday; sitting, lying, washing, grooming, daydreaming, back to sitting. And all “achieved” with a detached, melancholic air of thoughtful, ponderous (?), slowness. Flint’s scenarios are as meticulously designed as they are beautifully executed; “I’m interested in the curious swing of feelings of abundance to stoic neatness”. It’s shocking when people say things that you have never even thought of thinking. In The Fitting, 2019 (the “unruliness of bodies”, as Flint describes her figurative imagery), two women, in this instance, occupy space; one lying, the other sitting upon a bed, covered in a patterned blanket, into which neither figure apparently sinks, makes dents or any contact with the other – perhaps they are one-and-the-same-person, occupying different parts of the environment, in differing time continuums [?]. They both wear the same delicate pinky purple, matching bra [3] and knickers. A bottle stoppered with a used candle stub, placed beside a slice of watermelon, both sitting atop a boxy, latticed side table, are the only contents of the room. A diaphanous drape, obscures objects through a window or doorway, in the top left-hand corner. Light comes in. Despite it’s strangeness the scene has both logic and structure; it is neither surreal nor real. In The Yard, 2019, the women, now three of them, gain various additional clothing; green socks, sensible shoes (they are outside after all), the front, seated figure [4] wears a knee length skirt. All, you think, in addition or as add-ons to the predicated, shared basics, the fundaments of the ‘bra and knicker’ set, evident in The Fitting. The bottle has fallen over. Lost its candle. The watermelon has been joined by an orange. Stylized trees, planted into the ground like the central supporting bases of “Hills Hoists”, forest the yard (they are outside after all).





In the painting, The Visit, 2018, the three women are back indoors… fully attired in neat skirts and what I assume to be cashmere sweaters, casual shoes. One, with sandals. Three hairstyles are different versions of air stewardess ordinary neatness, a ponytail, shoulder-length-loose, a bun. Again the figure lying on the bed seems to float just above the pink cover, although leaving a dintless, weightless shadow. The boxy, latticed side table has transformed from orange to green, gained a pink upholstered cushion and becomes the seat for the conversationless visitor who stares into no space. The final figure, sits on the far side of the bed, but Flint’s extreme perspective almost forces her into another room, she is on her own, they all are. How do we read this? I did read something that tells me how I might; The interviews inform me that Prudence Flint initially studied design, but abandoned its product-oriented restriction for the dream of painting, as design was about the categorization and determination of things, whereas the ambiguous freedom from prescription in painting, “doesn’t sell anything.”







Prudence Flint has worked within the Australian artworld for three decades, steadily arriving at significant national attention, winning numerous prizes and awards, including one of the world’s most valuable painting prizes, (The Doug Moran Prize 2017). And by joining mother’s tankstation in 2019, is developing the journey to the internationalisation of her career. She is accordingly experiencing the critical acclaim due to an exceptional painter whose elegance of execution and originality of subject matter is arguably un-paralleled. Recent solo exhibitions include: The Call, mother’s tankstation, London (2021); The Wish, Fine Arts, Sydney (2020); The Visit, mother’s tankstation, Dublin (2019), with notable group exhibitions including, ME: An exhibition of Contemporary Self-Portraiture, High Line Nine, New York (2020), Archibald Prize Finalist Exhibition, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2019 and 2018).




[1]Without knowing Prudence Flint at the time, it was hard to assess if the interview format was Flint’s preferred mode of representation, if it was merely coincidental or just one of those things that occurs in on-line media, where a successful form tends to shape the nature of others? But here are a number of examples:
Araya, Nicole, “An Interview with Prudence Flint”, The Harvard Advocate: Special Issue The Women’s Issue, 2019
Fulleylove, Rebecca, “Artist Prudence Flint paints “powerful and mysterious” female protagonists in oil”, It’s Nice That, July 2017
Hall, Sarah, “Artist Prudence Flint in her own words”, The University of Melbourne: ART150 Celebrating 150 years of art, 2017
[2] “I’m trying to paint the feeling of being a body.”
[3] Aside: It’s an odd thing to say or write, but Flint’s bras are just wonderful, as exemplified in the 2015 painting, Sister, and numerous other works.
[4] Flint has noted; that were she a male painter, painting male figures, as indicative or emblematic of ‘humanity’, that no one would question it. Too damn right.



Prudence Flint CV_copyright mother's tankstation.pdf
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