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Julian Bell: Author of 'What is Painting' and 'Mirror of the World, A New History of Art' writes of Marguerites work...

"Marguerite Horner performs a simple, ancient but profound trick with her paintings. She takes a sheet of primed canvas or paper and makes it glow as if lit from within. Physically, the white is no more white than it was before she touched it, but spiritually it is transformed.The markings Horner makes serve not so much to represent views of the world around us, as to activate what lies behind them a quality not to be named, only touched on. A walk in the open with a camera has presented her with an epiphany, some angle of approach on whatever is real."

This is an airy, untrammelled pictorial world. The street and its concerns have been left behind. Colours have been left behind, almost - or rather, it is as if we were looking into a pure glow that is the sum of all pure colours. These skies and seas and trees are ghostly, if we read 'ghost' in its old spiritual sense. And yet there is a material particularity to each of Horner's large and arresting canvases."

Often a cunning interplay of divergent pigments only reveals itself in a doubletake. There is an equal cunning to her compositional stragegies - the daring imbalances of above and below, the barriers she throws across the act of vision. Those barriers - ripples, branches, clouds - become flowing calligraphic performances. This is committed oil painting, and full of the medium's pleasures. It comes from a painter who has considered her aesthetic options carefully, having secured a wide-ranging technical command."


There are many ways one might set Horner's act in context: in the art school where I encountered her work, the talk would have been about photo-painters like Gerhard Richter. I think of her more as an English individualist, and a distinctively northern one: her light-flecked thickets put me in mind of the late 19th-century painter Atkinson Grimshaw. "

 Frances Spalding : ARTS REVIEW

The intrigue of her work depends partly on the knife-edge balance maintained between painterliness and hard-edge photo-realism by varying the sharpness of focus….

Her natural talent combined with an intensity of looking lead her to begin as a landscape painter of more than average ability, using immediately recognizable styles.

Jane Neal writes as 'Curators Choice on the Saatchi Gallery website

Bleached-out landscapes, monochrome skies and moonlit seas make up the sensitive and evocative practice of London-based artist Marguerite Horner. But while the sublime skyscape 'Awakening' and the evocative landscape 'The Valley of the Shadow' are beautifully rendered in oil or charcoal on paper, and delivered on a scale sufficintly large and dramatic as to reinforce Horner's technical virtuosity, the most successful works on the Your Gallery website are the eerie 'If she does not listen' and  'To be where you really are'. Mysterious and understated, they draw in the viewer to a world which Horner has succeeded in making convincingly real and uncomfortably uncanny. The wintry branches in "If she does not listen' distract our attention from the wood beyond, forcing us to pause and focus on what is immediatly before us, as though we were being abruptly halted by a physical blockage on a woodland path. A similar ploy is at work in 'To be where you really are', where a picturesque white house is half obscured by a thick hedge and trees. Horner is adept at enticing and frustrating the viewer in a manner reminiscent of Northern European Romantic painters, such as Casper David Friedrich - so perhaps she should omit the line of explanation she has included to accompany each work. She doesn't need them - the paintings command sufficient time and attention from the viewer to lead them to draw their own conclusions - and the sense of mystery adds to their charm. Jane Neal.

JANE NEAL  is an Oxford-based freelance critic and curator. She contributes to a wide variety of international art publications including Art in America, Art Review, Flash Art, Map Magazine and Modern Painters, and writes regularly for The Telegraph. Jane Neal was formerly the Artistic Director at Calvert 22. Neal curated the landmark 2006-07 Cluj Connection exhibition at Haunch of Venison, Zurich. In 2007, she curated the critically acclaimed Across the Trees: Romanian Art Now at David Nolan Gallery in New York.

Lady Marina Vaizey CBE.. catalogue essay for

'The Seen and Unseen' solo show 2012 at the PM Gallery London

Lady Marina Vaizey CBE.. catalogue essay for

'The Seen and Unseen' solo show 2012 at the PM Gallery London

The catalogue essay for 'Cars and Streets' Marguerite Horners

solo exhibition at Art Bermondsey Project Space 2015. by Anna McNay

The Sufi Master Pir Vilayat Inayay Khan once said: 'To bring the sublime into the mundane is the greatest challenge there is'. The sublime, ideas of which are generally dated back to the first century AD, when the Greek critic Longinus wrote an aesthetic treatise on the subject, is largely associated with greatness, awe and something exceeding human understanding or representation. Kant suggests it has power to transform and uplift, to make human reason transcend sensibility, by confronting it with something at first seemingly incomprehensible. His focus - as well as that of his predecessor Edmund Burke - is upon nature and the divine as sources for sublime experiences, and this can be seen in contemporary 18th and 19th-century artworks such as Casper David Friedrich, JMW Turner and John Martin.


Marguerite Horner's paintings might therefore appear to depict the polar opposite of the sublime. Her suburban streets and highways, deserted parking lots, cars, telegraph poles and wires, largely inspire by her experiences of small town America, are the stuff of the everyday - mundane, quotidian, manmade. Yet, with their grisaille palette, fluctuating between being crisply focused and blurred to the point of obfuscation, there is something uncanny about these otherwise easily recognisable scenes. They are familiar, yet strange - estranged. Freud delineates the uncanny as 'that class of the frightening which leads back to what is known of old and long familiar, as 'nothing new or alien, but something which is familiar and old- established in the mind and which has become alienated from it only through the process of repression'. He drew a distinction between the uncanny and the sublime, by imbuing the latter with solely positive attributes, 'rather than with the opposite feelings of repulsion and distress'. the uncanny, on the other hand, he classed as those things 'which lie within the field of what is frightening'. This is false on two counts: (i) his interpretation of the sublime is somewhat rose-tinted, since it is often associated, in the first instance, with terror and horror, and (ii) this very process of alienation and repression, which Freud attributes to the uncanny, is what leads to Kant's transcendental encounter with the sublime.


Consider, for example, the incident with the madeleine in Proust's Combray. Describing the moment of tasting the known-but-unknown delicacy, Proust writes:...this new sensation having had on me the effect that love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me, it was me. I had ceased to feel mefiocre, contingent, mortal.' His description is of a form of self-transcenence, an encounter with the sublime, triggered through an encounter with the alienated and forgotten, the known-but-unknown, the uncanny. In the same way, Horner's paintinggs serve to trigger a memory. In their veiled state, they seek not to represent, but to signify. They seek to fill their viewer with an essence. This realisation and resultant introspection then suggests that Horner's paintings have succeeded in meeting the Sufi master's challenge: a seemingly mundane image, like the simple madeleine, can contain the seed, or essence, of a memory or state, that can lead the viewer to transcend his or her physical being and cease to feel 'mediocre, contingent, mortal'.


Simon Morley, discussing the distinction between the beautiful and the sublime, notes that beauty is static, that we are charmed, seduced and captivated by it, while the sublime transports, moves and dislocates us from our self. He references how Arther Schopenhauer explored the fissure that lies at the heart of being, and envisaged a self that can in certain situations observe itself in the very act of confrontng a fearful inner abyss'. It is this inner abyss that Horner captures so strikingly in her paintings: a sense of lonliness and emptiness, a far greater and more terrifying phenomenon than anything nature can offer. As Derrida observes, contary to Kant and Burke: 'The sublime is not in nature but only in ourselves'. Horner herself speaks of taking inspiration from Jung, when he declared a similar, if reversed observation: 'For the only equivalent of the universe within is the universe without'. She says: 'In my paintings, I strive to capture the meaningful dialogue between my internal and external realities, which are metaphorically portrayed, by using images intuitively taken from my passing landscape'.


To return to Morley's notion that the sublime transports, moves and dislocates us from our self, we begin to understand the latent symbolism of Horner's cars: parked or frozen in movement, they are vehicles of transcendence, transporting the viewer from within to without, from without to within. Her use of blurring, reminiscent of Gerhard Richter's use of the squeegee, has the duel effect. Firstly, it suggests transience - a sense of passing by, of motion. Secondly, like the veiling of the greyscale palette, it reduces the image to the bare minimum - the Proustian essence. Richter, speaking of his own use of the technique, says: 'I blur things to make everything equally important and equally unimportant. [...] I blur things to make all the parts a closer fit. Perhaps I also blur out the excess of unimportant information'. In terms of the sublime, these blurred passages represent what Lyotard terms: 'a cleavage within the subject between what can be conceived and what can be imagined or presented'. They are the physical, painterly manifestation of this fissure.


Derrida, in his essay 'Parergon', focuses attention not on the object of contemplation (the work, or 'ergon'), but on its boundary. He speaks of the need to frame something to prevent it from becoming merely monstrous. Horner's paintings are full of frames within frames: the grey skies, streets, and parking lots are bisected by bright white road markings, lamp posts, trees, and telegraph wires. In 'Boxed In' (2010), the block of flats is set in a vivid red square, restricting the main frame of reference to a fraction of the composition, with the mundane continuing all around. Within this red frame, a myriad windows - further, smaller frames - push up against one another. Each offers a different (albeit the same) viewpoint, a reflection of the outer world. This segment could be seen from any angle, upside down, it would make no difference. Pixelated imagery, like reflections on the retina, multiple tiny photograms, just prior to being interpreted into a coherent image by the mind. Horner speaks of a constant dialogue between the mark and the inner eye in the process of her painting. The same is true for the viewer as he or she interprets it. Horner is providing just the ingredients - the flour and lemon juice of the madeleine - an asking viewers to reconstruct their own memories - to recognise in the universe without, their own universe within and to confront and transcend this inner abyss. In so doing, she is bringing the sublime into the mundane.

For Marguerite Horner, every painting starts from a moment of reverie, when something seen feel more than usually significant. She has built up a huge photographic archive of stilled moments, many of them taken on an American road trip more than 20 years ago. She stayed for a time on Long Island and travelled every day into Manhatten, and her grisaille paintings are reinterpreted moments unfrozen from that visual treasury. What the  photo depicts is not in a sense important, though certain features such as telegraph poles and wires, and the uprights of houses and trees, are a constant articulation of the space she evokes, and clearly provide the needed horizontal and vertical axes of her formal structures. But however banal the ostensible subject, Horner wishes to induce a reflective mood in the spectator, an examination of the inner world rather than the outer. Her dust-coloured paintings (mixed from Madder brown and Prussian blue) induce calm and meditation. The viewer initially identifies with this monochrome world (black and white film, or early TV) as a form of voluntary nostalgia, until closer study of the paintings reveals their incompleteness. Horner's flattened forms are things seen in sunlight, and what you see is what you get: the part of the car in the light, not the rest of it in shadow, the facade of the building without a suggestion of what might be behind. The illusion is painfully partial and truly unnerving.....


Andrew Lambirth February-March 2016 - formerly Art writer for 'The Spectator' 


Review of The Seen and the Unseen, paintings by Marguerite Horner at Pitshanger Gallery, London. By Anna MacNay

Review of The Seen and the Unseen: paintings by Marguerite Horner and The Near and the Elsewhere: group show curated by Gaia Persico at PM Gallery and House


The Seen and the Unseen: paintings by Marguerite Horner


The Near and the Elsewhere: group show curated by Gaia Persico

PM Gallery and House

25 January – 25 February 2012

PM Gallery, a 1940s annex to Sir John Soane’s grade I listed Pitzhanger Manor House of 1800, has been described as West London’s premier contemporary arts venue, and, to its credit, it is currently hosting two exhibitions, very different in style, yet related in theme, which certainly make the trip out to Ealing worthwhile.


Marguerite Horner’s solo show, The Seen and the Unseen, comprises a collection of her recognisably haunting grisaille street scenes, largely inspired by her recent experiences of small town America. The grey skies, streets, and parking lots, devoid of populace, are bisected by bright white road markings, lamp posts, trees, and telegraph wires, and the heavy monotone is further broken at more random points by the insertion of a solitary red car, or, in the case of Vanitas (2010), a woman with bright red lips.


One wall is dominated by three larger works from 2007, Immutable Light, Ineffably Perceived, and Walled in by Feelings. These are blacker than the rest, with a more yellowish glow to the grey. They depict the dark exterior walls of houses, spooky and foreboding, lit by moonlight piercing through the clouds. Whilst, again, no inhabitants are visible, lights nevertheless burn brightly indoors, echoic, perhaps, of Hitchcock’s Bates’ mansion, or, in the case of Ineffably Perceived, where we look down also over the distant lights of a town and see the house as that of a recluse, set apart, high on a hill, something more akin to the bizarre residence of Dr Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.


The Adolescent, Help, and Swept Away (all 2011) trial a new effect, reminiscent of Gerhard Richter’s squeegee works, rendering the images blurred, as if we were moving past at high speed. Are we to imagine ourselves in one of the many cars (a recurring motif in Horner’s scenes), is it just the wind in the trees, or is it perhaps all merely the nebulous scenery of a dream? If so, is this dream a nightmare? Ought one to feel threatened? Certainly the emptiness hangs heavy, and there is something uncanny and unsettling about the desolation – a definite sense of unease. But what is actually more oppressive: this fearful emptiness, loneliness, and barren space, or an overcrowded city, heaving with modern life? Horner herself says that she uses her painting precisely so as to access a space for contemplation away from the fast pace of modern life. There is certainly a sense of somehow being outside of the scene, looking down upon it, reinforced by titles such as The Guardian (2011) – but who is it that is watching, and over what or whom? Like a plague-swept empty world, a stage set with all the features of habitation but lacking the actors to fill the roles, the cars seem to take the place of living, breathing creatures, representing the transience, not only of life, but also of time and space – do we ever really inhabit somewhere, or are we bound to always only be passing through?

M A R G U E R I T E    H O R N E R


Selected writings and Reviews on the Artists work


The catalogue essay for Edgelands exhibition at the Crypt Gallery,

St Marylebone Church, London 2016. By Andrew Lambirth.

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