‘sottovoce‘ is the second solo presentation of Clare Goodwin’s work devoted solely to her wall paintings. Known primarily for working on canvas, and more recently with ceramic and handmade objects, Goodwin made 11 new site-specific wall paintings for the three exhibition spaces of Haus der Kunst St. Josef, Solothurn – a former 17th Century monastery.

Through her painterly language, Goodwin offers personal perspectives on art historical languages and strategies. Casting aside mathematical rinciples and process-based rules of the past, she intuitively choreographs abstract forms using her own guidelines informed by the nostalgic experience and narratives that connect people with objects. However minimal or rigorously constructed Goodwin’s works appear, titled as if characters from a rolling sitcom script they might also be read as portraits; the reduced design essence, perhaps, of various human predilections and foibles. 

‘sottovoce‘ is the direct, much larger project descendant of a site-specific wall painting series Goodwin created for Last Tango gallery in Zurich last year. The expression literally translates as “under the voice”, implying a deliberate lowering of the vocal register to heighten the importance of what is being said. As in music or when speaking, changing to a lower tone can bring an authoritative or strong emphasis to the account; a voice doesn’t need to be shouty to be heard. Scaled to work with the particular characteristics of the building and its church floorplan, this multi-work installation tests once again  the physical and associative limits of Goodwin’s painterly language. Using a similarly restrained palette of fleshy pastels punctuated with black shard-like shapes, she  created two distinct groups of wall works, which also incorporate some of her recent ceramic ‘Whispers’. As the title of these works and of the exhibition itself suggest, Goodwin is interested in the idea of the low or secretive conversation and all it might hold as blueprint for her painterly approach.

The first two rooms house a series of connected works based on a curtain design and constructed in the manner of a mechanical dance – aesthetically speaking like a pared-back company of  Duchampian brides. The association here in the nave of a former catholic church is of course with nuns, and one can imagine from the sense of pleating and movement in this multi-part composition, the swish of habits around corners and the illicit murmurings of a community of sisters living in reverential silence.

Goodwin is approaching the back-room space, the choir – where the nuns would sit and sing during service separated from the congregation behind grates – as if an extension of her studio; the works appear closer in arrangement here to five individual canvas compositions than a system of scalable elements. 

The wall paintings only live for the duration of the exhibition. Executed onsite from sketch-book drawings, they are painted over once it comes to an end. The only remaining evidence are the 11 bozzetti made by the artist during planning.

Rebecca Geldard