Elaine Thomas
Jigsaws and Crouds
paintings 1979-1982

The bald headed lady and the Frenchman 1980, oil on canvas, 40 x 40 cm

Tangle (Detail) 1980, oil and gloss paint on canvas, 127 x 152 cm

Tangle (Detail) 1980, oil and gloss paint on canvas, 127 x 152 cm

Tangle (Detail) 1980, oil and gloss paint on canvas, 127 x 152 cm

There's a joker in the pack 1980, oil and gloss paint on canvas, 50 x 50 cm

Attention to detail, repetition and caricature were key features in a series of paintings produced during the late 1970s and the 1980s, where I sought to use painting techniques to allow the suggestion and evolution of imagery. These works, which have the appearance of comic and ambiguous jigsaw puzzles, evolved into a series of crowd paintings as the references to characters and features became less obscure. They retain a strongly illustrative style, employing ambiguity and exaggeration and, in their intensity, can create discomfort as well as attraction. During this period of work, I was aware that, although all the faces and figures are drawn and painted from imagination, I was using my experience of drawing from observation. The relationship between observation, memory and imagination is fascinating and crucial to my work.

Thinks 1980, oil on canvas, 69 x 110 cm

The Bride 1982, oil on canvas, 78 x 110 cm

Asides 1982, oil on canvas, 24 x 24 in

Cuckold 1982, oil on canvas, 76 x 92 cm

The characters in the paintings present unflattering portraits, using distortion and retaining a primitive quality that can call to mind the work of Breughel and Stanley Spencer. There is a recognisability or familiarity in some of the characters, which can attract viewers. These paintings caused me to question my own view of people, and to acknowledge that the view is both unflattering and populist. These paintings are, in many ways, the most accessible works and, because of their attention to detail and the familiarity of features, they attract interest from people often alienated by ‘high art’.
Smirks 1982, oil and acrylic on canvas, 46 x 76 cm