Fay Ballard: In Circles

15 Oct-17 Dec 2021


Handel Street Projects is pleased to announce an exhibition of new works on paper by Fay Ballard. In these drawings, Ballard takes the circle, rendering some in graphite’s subtle spectrum of greys, and others in luminous watercolour, exploring tone and colour. The series comprises 40 circles in total; many radiate a sense of measured calm and serenity, while others are more extrovert, their playful colours reminiscent of Ballard’s 1970s childhood. 
Ballard’s working process is intuitive and each circle is the result of prolonged periods of concentration. The tone and colour of each circle evolves as the drawing takes shape. Although she sets herself a set of rules – a circle radius of 14, 18 or 56cm, divided into concentric bands of 5 or 10mm, the human touch is evident. Glitches of the hand are incorporated – a stray pencil line, a brush mark overlapping watercolour. No two look the same. As Gilda Williams writes in the catalogue to accompany the exhibition: 
‘This is not a mechanical art-making practice, set on repeat. Each drawing gives rise to a unique space of contemplation – ‘a reverie’, as Ballard describes her state when working, echoing the term used by Wilfred Bion to describe moments of psychoanalytical break-through.
Ballard talks about finding an ‘emotional pitch’ and the series reflects a personal journey, perhaps an internal resolution after a decade of rediscovering her mother who died in 1964. Her interest in psychoanalysis underpins these drawings, especially Hanna Segal’s ideas on art as a reparative act. For Ballard, the circles could also be shelters offering containment. Others recall memories of her 1970s childhood growing up in Shepperton: 
‘Fairground rides, psychedelia, gobstoppers, Spirograph and those cardboard spinning discs found in cereal packets’. Dr Williams adds ‘grooves of vinyl LPs’ noting that Ballard refers to ‘pitch’ and cites a resonance with Olivier Messiaen’s ‘Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jésus’ (1944).
Ballard began the circles after trips to Iran and Morocco, inspired by their art and architecture, especially the brickwork in Iran, and after visiting Peter Zumthor’s Kolumba Museum in Cologne where brickwork is employed to elicit an emotional response.
Fay Ballard studied MA Fine Art at Central St Martins School of Art and History of Art at University of Sussex. Her recent exhibitions include ‘Breathe’ at Freud Museum London in 2018 and ‘Travelling Companions’ with Judy Goldhill at University of Cambridge in 2020 accompanied by an online project with number of contributors. Ballard was visiting artist at Hammersmith Hospital where she offered art workshops to patients at their bedsides during 2017 and 2018, part of Imperial College Health Charity Audience Engagement Programme.

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