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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Schaefer

Article by Penelope MacEwen (MA Fine Art Oxford University/ Psychology Uel Postgrad, UK.) to see the work MacEwen refers to in her article.

Inhabiting spaces - the ghosts of memories that haunt us - there is a sense of previous lives permeating and pervading Schaefer’s images. We get the idea of a journey in which nostalgia meets the grittiness of real life and tears may meet with joy as well as with sadness. The sense of loss is most felt when looking at the images of empty spaces, particularly in her photographic work where the history and back streets of Rome are most prevalent. The ‘vanishing quality’ that Schaefer cites when commenting upon her mixed media work - for example ‘The Hand’, a work with acrylic on canvas, evokes a powerful presence that haunts.

Nevertheless ‘My Prince is an Alchemist’ gives us the sense that the muse behind the images lies in a spiritual encounter with an ever-moving presence. In particular ‘Perche L’Arte Vive’ is exceptionally strong; it suggests the intuition that Art needs to rediscover its inner eye and its links to the semiotics of its Italian Renaissance past, while still searching for new beginnings in a post-modern world and perhaps even a post-post-modern reality. It is interesting to see how each piece of these figurative works draws on Schaefer’s earlier more abstracted work as well. The interfusing of texture, layering and the tonal closeness of her work now confidently blends with the figurative as she captures the moods of those she paints figuratively, whether through direct observation or memory.

Where to from here one might ask…. The blending of old and new and the meeting of spiritual with material is an archetypal theme. With the pandemic having wrought havoc in people’s lives one might ask what task have the Arts got to reimagine the psyche of people who have lost their link with an inner world that Art would traditionally have opened a window upon. Are we now too cynical to retrace our steps and find those empty streets once more and rediscover and reenchant our dreams? The artist is usually the dreamer, the one on the edge, the one that sees but is not part of the drama; in so doing the visual artist has the power to see what others do not. It is perhaps a time for more experienced and younger artists that are starting their careers to come together and share their visions, and for the magical to be reimbued with magic. It is a time for the precious to be rediscovered, just as it was, seemingly lost on a train as in many of Schaefer’s images, yet just around the corner the light of a ghostly image turns the page.

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