Clare Woods’ recent paintings are essentially concerned with sculpting an image in paint, and expressing the strangeness of an object. Originally trained as a sculptor, much of Woods work is an exploration of physical form. This understanding of sculptural language and a preoccupation with forms in space, which she now translates into two-dimensional images, underpins her pictorial practice.
In most of her previous work, Woods was concerned with landscape, but after her solo exhibition The Unquiet Head at the Hepworth Wakefield in 2011-12, which featured large-scale paintings of monumental stones found within the British landscape, her images have been increasingly preoccupied with conveying the human form.
Allied to this change in subject-matter, which has affected her way of working, is a shift in the process of sourcing imagery. In her new paintings the source material is no longer the artist’s own landscape photography, but instead inspiration is drawn from found sources: books, the internet, photographic records of work by other artists and press photographs, especially those shot in black and white.
Much of Wood’s recent work is concerned with fragility, vulnerability, mortality and disability; the fragile border between sickness and health, cruelty and humanity, and ultimately life and death. Perhaps this explains why bodies come to mind even when the images are not directly about them. Despite the varying degrees of brightly coloured abstraction and compositional distortions, Wood’s anthropomorphic studies bring to mind heads, limbs and torsos. It is like seeing the body through a distorted lens, defamiliarizing and estranging it.