Imogene Drummond Paintings as Internal Reality
Drummond’s paintings have a primitive power, like that of the German Expressionist Emil Nolde. They have a painterly quality and a primitive energy that is not conventional. Her painting is a revolt against stultifying Victorian refinement. Its lack of refinement is its strength. Her work expresses emotion in a child-like, primitive way that says something to one’s inner soul. Her paintings have a tactile quality, so that one wants to touch them, almost like a sculpture. Her pieces are not delicate. Good painting, like Drummond’s, is not perfectly clean, it should change in meaning over time, one should reinterpret it every time one looks at it, and experience a new sensation. The “Great Round” series of paintings look like they are moving out and getting greater, not getting smaller. The frame within a frame series of paintings relate to Geographical Philosophy, where what is inside becomes outside, and what is outside becomes inside. Drummond’s landscape paintings convey a powerful primitivism that goes back to African art and folk-art.
Twentieth century art was about going back to the energy, motion, movement and emotions that had been lost. (Everything had become so refined that everyone had lost touch with their emotions). Contemporary art is about going back to the primitive, child-like way of painting, because it is a way of expressing emotion. There is an intellectual aspect of twentieth century art that is serious. Picasso painted like a child because he wanted to convey emotions. Because he painted like a child doesn’t mean that his paintings are not intellectual. Drummond’s works similarly express a personal energy and emotion.
Photography reproduces the world around us. With the advent of photography, there was no longer a reason to reproduce the world around us as there used to be with paint on canvas. So, when painting was no longer needed to reflect the world around us, it became opened to re-interpreting the world around us. Contemporary art is about saying something to one’s inner soul, conveying a mood or expressing an emotion.
A painter starts with a blank canvas, and is up against him or herself. Painting is about conveying an internal reality. It is the opposite of photography where the camera is about conveying external reality. Paintings must flow internally from the artist. Drummond’s paintings do this because she creates an emotional relationship to the paintings. Her paintings have their own life. Like a fingerprint, no two people can paint alike. The hand is and moves as an individual. This sense of uniqueness comes across in Drummond’s work.
The important thing in painting is not the subject. It’s how you do it, how you paint. The hand, unlike the camera, is not a machine. It doesn’t matter what the subject is. Drummond’s work conveys this personal sense of emotion and uniqueness. Drummond’s work is what art is all about.
New York, New York
September 30, 2002
Leonard Freed, a Magnum photographer for over 30 years, wrote and photographed 16 books.