There is something satisfying about seeing Realism artwork come together. Like a jigsaw puzzle solved piece by piece, colour by colour, shape by shape the artist matches the colours and proportions to the original until a recognisable replica takes shape. Australian artist Cynthia Howard draws from life often to continually add to her visual vocabulary but it’s not her Realism artwork, her portraits and landscapes, that are most unique to her style. It’s the Stream of Consciousness imaginings that lean on the rich vocabulary shaped by years of drawing realism and an expansive creative background spanning the fashion, interior design and story-telling industries as an actor, that stir the most interest.
Cynthia Howard’s imaginative paintings start as stream of consciousness sketches in pencil or ink and usually suggest an unclear but intriguing narrative. There is ‘Expecting’, an oil painting completed in early 2021 that was based on a sketch the artist ‘day dreamed’ at a time whilst her two younger sisters were both simultaneously pregnant. In the painting a pregnant woman kneels, her hand outstretched and eyes gazing upward to a cloud filled sky expecting child and anticipating the impending storm. The clouds themselves alternate and flip in a pattern that stretches below the horizon suggesting that this scene is occurring in some sort of limbo time and place. It is this surreal aspect to her work coupled with Cynthia Howard’s fondness for geometric shapes and hard edged lines that might make one say that her work is somewhere between Cubism and Surrealism.
Sometimes it’s not so much the subconscious or imagined story that propels Cynthia to develop a work but an attraction to a strong design element. For example, “Woman in Midnight Water” was a stream of consciousness sketch that started as a biro doodle in a sketchbook. The artist liked the shape of the curved line of the torso disappearing into the water so much that she decided to refine a painted version of it. Though there is usually a strong narrative sometimes the visual poetry of shapes and lines is enticing enough as is with the case of “Woman, child, cat” that reads slightly more as a visual design especially with the suspended flowers framing the composition than as characters existing in a defined place with a suggested story.
Having studied both a Bachelors degree in Visual Art and a Bachelors of Fine Art (Acting) Cynthia Howard has an intrigue for the psychological, for storytelling and narrative, for wanting to own all of ourselves but also wanting to invite us to be our most powerful. Her background in fashion influences her to pose her characters in dynamic positions that take up space, that are at ease with themselves and exhibit confidence.
In “Woman in Midnight Water” the subject confidently looks over her shoulder and delicately outstretches her hand. It’s an example of how Cynthia’s background in fashion still influences her work: “When I was a child I wanted to be a fashion designer. I later realized I didn’t enjoy sewing as much as I enjoyed drawing the designs and the people wearing them – I liked drawing these confident, expressive, powerful women I imagined I could one day be or be around. I think when I still sketch today that’s what comes out of my subconsciousness. It’s that wanting to be fully human as there is power in self ownership and wanting to really focus on and nourish a feeling of confidence and beauty. I love looking at the clouds and I adore my cats and flowers so they often make an appearance.”
‘The Sunburnt Fisherman’ was completed straight onto oil paper with paint and is one of the artists favourite works: “It’s not a complicated design and was created quickly but I feel there is so much metaphorically in it. The Fisherman’s skin is the same as the sunburnt red sky alluding that he has become one with his harsh environment. There’s also the arm of the figure in the boat behind that starts to merge and become one with the vessel and water – both becoming part of the sea. The hat of the fisherman with the cross on top I see a lot in as well. He’s skinny and his eyes look tired and worn but there is something kingly about his hat and the way he gazes out ahead.” It will be interesting to see what comes out of Cynthia Howard’s stream of consciousness imaginings in the years to come.
“Mother, child, cat” Oil on oil paper.
“Expecting” Oil painting art on oil canvas.
“Within the leaves” Oil on oil paper.
“Woman in Midnight Water” Oil on oil paper.
“Woman with Flowers” Acrylic on Canvas.
“Abstract life drawing” Oil on board.
A variety of Cynthia Howard’s paintings