“Beauty comes from the balance between two and three dimensions, between
abstraction and representation – I seek the equilibrium behind changing appearances.”
- Henri Matisse
Colour startles in the new work.
Dynamic, even confrontational, these paintings challenge our commonplace
expectations of colour and shape. Local colour – the colour an object “owns” –
has been replaced with saturated colour, more rooted in intuition than
Although embedded in the figurative, these works lean into more abstract
realms. The tension between form and dissolution, between the need to structure
composition and render dissipation, is what draws us in and holds our
Ballam references celebratory images of women by great modernists –
Matisse’s dancers ands Picasso’s women running on the beach. These are
reworkings of artists who are key pillars of the male modernist canon. Are the
Ballam paintings a homage, a challenge, or both?
The roots in art history go back further, into classical friezes of
Antiquity and their traditional themes like the Three Graces. Ballam’s
entranced figures recall to mind the Pompeian mystery cults of which only
fragments of murals remain.
The American art critic H. Harold Rosenberg famously stated that “… the
canvas is an arena in which to act.” Large canvasses make unusual physical
demands on a painter. The large canvas is likely to be the recipient of bolder,
emphatic gestures, trapping and holding the energy and emotion of a painter.
Ballam’s paintings are arrived at through a succession of applications, broad
swathes laid in with large brushes and palette knives, then drawn into with
incisive fluid line.
Each painting is the result of a perilous voyage, a tightrope walk into
the unknown that requires considerable poise.
Carl Becker – October 2019