Fire & Ice
Brenda Cirioni paints fire with vivid intensity. Basil Gorrill’s mixed-media works feature complementary hues that evoke winter’s chill and summer’s heat. Jane Yudelman’s photographs of ice are striking in their color and texture. These artists explore fire and ice, opposites that attract rich visual possibilities.
“I can’t seem to can’t seem to get away from nature,” says Cirioni. “I have a deep love for open land, wood, and water.” Her richly textured mixed-media paintings explore the opposing themes of decay and growth through abstract depictions of nature. “The idea of destruction and regeneration comes from a lifetime of witnessing it in nature and life,” she says. She uses found materials in her paintings as a way to feed into this cycle of renewal. “I like giving new life to something that would otherwise be in a landfill,” Cirioni says. Scraps of printed paper, wallpaper, fabric, rusted metal, and even eggshells have added textural dimension to her paintings, replicating the detritus of the forest floor or the roughness of a rocky beach.
In her Barn series, Cirioni draws from a harrowing childhood experience to delve into the themes that continually fascinate her. As a young girl, Cirioni had a powerful and transformative experience with fire. Recalling that experience as an adult was the catalyst that led her to create the Barn series. Glow is a particularly striking piece, dominated by bright orange flames. The barn itself seems to be made entirely of fire, burning with an intensity that feels especially jarring set against a quiet, bucolic background. Viewing Glow is a visceral experience; it is at once unsettling and exhilarating, as if one were actually staring into a massive conflagration. “I’m interested in the energy, the life force,” says Cirioni. “Life force goes on no matter what.” She recognizes that there is an undeniable force in the fire, that “the barn may be gone, but something else is taking the place of it. It just takes time.”
“I’ve been painting for over three decades and my work is always evolving,” says Gorrill. His current work is abstract, created by layering and mixing a variety of media including oil, graphite, clay, epoxy, and ink. These paintings are eruptions of color and organic forms, reminiscent of sunsets, reflections on water, and mysterious nebulae. Responding “intuitively” to his materials, Gorrill paints in an energetic, spontaneous fashion. “I continually change the orientation of the piece,” he says. “I stand, sit, and walk around, always pausing, curiously looking, thinking, and seeing.” Letting himself be guided by the process, Gorrill is open to “the mysteries of making,” he says. He prefers not to overanalyze the creative decisions he makes, or the resultant images, allowing viewers’ experiences to be purely subjective.
One is compelled to dive in to Mercurial, one example of Gorrill’s recent work. An undulating wave of bronzed orange crashes into a cool expanse of translucent blue. The circularity of the forms is hypnotic: the more one looks, the more there is to see, as different layers emerge and recede. “I paint with the knowledge that making art is an interactive experience, that where I began can always change,” Gorrill says. “Where I am going is different from where I started.”
As a citizen of the world, Yudelman’s life and artwork have been enriched by disparate cultures and broad perspectives. Yudelman has lived in South Africa, London, and the United States, and for over 25 years she worked in Asia, Africa, and the former Soviet Union on anti- poverty programs. “During this time I mostly engaged with photography as a means of capturing the landscape, the faces, the cultures, and the light of the places in which I was working,” explains Yudelman. Coming to Belfast in 2009, she says, she “rediscovered my love of photography as an art form.” Interested primarily in capturing moments of beauty found within raw landscapes, Yudelman spends hours or even weeks in deliberate observation before picking up her camera. “This careful and repeated observation can be a very meditative process, one that helps to clear my mind of the more immediate and obvious reactions and responses, so that I can begin to see more clearly the subtleties of what is in front of me,” she explains.
Walking along a beach on Mount Desert Island one winter, Yudelman observed the effects of temperature fluctuations on the formation of ice. Once she gained a deeper understanding of these effects, she began working on the images that would compose the Frozen Light series. She was particularly intrigued by “beautiful little patches of startling color and form, and a kind of self-illuminance or radiance that appeared to emerge from deep within the ice.” One example from the series, Frozen Light #10, demonstrates the ethereal nature of the luminescent color that inspired Yudelman. Her physical approach to making the images can involve wading into tide pools, or enduring ice-cold fingers as she crawls on her hands and knees to place her tripod in the optimal position. Yudelman’s efforts demonstrate her fierce commitment to her craft and her passion for nature. “Frozen Light was pivotal in helping me to understand that my work in general is about finding beauty in a world of so much suffering,” she says. “The fact that I create these images in the darkest and coldest months of the year is a metaphor for this, too. We can always find beauty, even in the bleakest times.”