'To gild refined gold, to paint the lily, is wasteful and ridiculous excess.'
If making art is in part an act of embellishment, one critique could be whether the embellishment is adding something new, deepening our view or whether it is just excess with no additional value. The word embellishment has a range of meanings, from making beautiful, improving, adding fictitious details, to wasteful exaggeration. This range indicates its slippery subjectivity, depending on the eye of the beholder.
Even the most austere understated artist is an embellisher of sorts as nothing can be stripped away completely as there is always a fiction and pleasure at the heart of every artwork. The pleasure of making and of viewing would arise from the embellishing of ideas and materials, and whether or not the embellishment has become alchemic.
Each work requires a different strategy to achieve this act of embellishment. Some artists may explore ideas and materials through excess and opulence, others by pairing down. The artists in this show reflect this arc.
Jessica Holmes, Hours or even days of warning, 2011, mixed media, 122x153cm