I recall reading somewhere that you don't really 'see' good flamenco, you 'feel' it. It is an artform were guitarists, singers and dancers vent their feelings with fervour and spontaneity, all the while maintaining a sense of grace and dignity. Because flamenco is an expression of emotion, participants are permitted to eschew technical mastery for the sake of passion, as small flaws are lost in the flurry of steps and strumming.
In his exhibition of fiery red and black paintings, Fitzsimmons does indeed feel the passion of flamenco and demonstrates its energy very well. However when he attempts to be expressive and spontaneous, he sometimes loses control and in painting, the small flaws are magnified.
All exhibits reveal a confidence in mark making that carries over from one image to another with an energetic flow. Spanish Dancers is a fascinating image, one where we can almost hear the guitarist slapping the strings. It's hard to stand still in front of this rich painting as our eyes dance through the rhythmic composition. The three dancers seem to be listening to the same music and responding simultaneously. Despite the movement it is a well composed image that provides a stable sense of unity. Quite the opposite is Cantinas, a painting that has an unsettling atmosphere. In this work the two dancers' heads are ambiguous, the short blue marks that define one dress seem invasive, and despite the bush work being overly loose there is a certain sense of constriction to the composition.
Both Farida and Tanguillos suggest a stop in the dance, unfortunately they also suggest a loss of spirit, which continues to pulsate even during that momentary halt prior to reversing the swing of the skirt. We see this spirit beautifully portrayed in Conquero where the skirt looks like a matador's cape and again in Farrucca which is little more then a serpentine line but conveys much. Meanwhile the one image that encapsulates Flamenco best is Flame & Passion, an excellent abstraction of the energy and emotion felt by the two figures, and the artist. Ole!
Fitzsimmons's series of ink on paper sketches, Spanish Dancer, range from good to better to best. Here the immediacy of the medium adds to the excitement of the image. Many appear to be the continuation of a single line through a variety of weights that give it character. Very nice indeed.
There is an overload of imagery here, one can't help thinking culling would have enhanced the exhibition as a whole. However it is still an exciting and energetic display, one that is complimented by the colourful and beautifully formed ceramics by Njalikwa Chongwe.
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