Makenzy Beard is a teenage artist from Swansea who discovered her love for painting during lockdown and kept nurturing her passion. Capturing undisturbed naturalness seems to be a subject of great importance to this painter, and portraits seem to be just the tool for her to explore that.
As references, Beard uses photographs taken by herself or her family: some from her everyday life, some from her travels. She also takes inspiration from old photographs, such as one taken by Léon Herschtritt during WWII. She uses acrylic paints on canvas and tries her hand at wire sculptures. At 15 years old, her paintings have already been selected to exhibit at the Royal Academy Young Artists’ Summer Show.
The Painter Girl, Beard’s newest exhibition – her debut solo show – at the Blackwater Gallery in Cardiff Bay presents her spectrum of portrait paintings. She paints in a realistic style that tries to capture the subject’s nature, with an interesting contrast of somewhat expressionistic backgrounds to emphasize the painting’s meaning. The paintings focus on catching every ray of light and every shadow dancing on the subjects. However, that is not the only strong point of this young artist, as Beard’s skill of painting different textures seems effortless and natural to her – take Self Red, where she distinguishes the skin from the shimmering fabric of a winter jacket beautifully.
Although the painting For Dave Laws was a leading piece of this exhibition, and some other portraits were genuinely mesmerizing, my attention was drowned in another piece, Soz Dad. This small, inconspicuous painting, mismatched with the rest, has truly some deep value. Maybe it is so because it does not contain highly contrasted lines of shadow and light which can, by merely being there, provide an interesting effect that will superficially fulfil the need of extracting the subject’s essences and putting it onto the canvas (as I fear takes place in some of her portraits).
No, Soz Dad is less detailed, less pretty, less focused on presentation, and more on the essence. With fast, seemingly simple brushstrokes and toned colours, Beard has made a piece of bread a contemporary item that draws back to memento mori, keeping its physical juiciness simultaneously. As such, from everything showing at this exhibition, the skills and artistic soul of the eponymous painter girl are most fully displayed here.
As someone who has been proclaimed Wales’ most prodigious young artist of this generation, Makenzy Beard does not disappoint. Looking at her current collection, it is safe to say that this talent will develop to a genuinely marvellous level.
Makenzy Beard: The Painter Girl, Blackwater Gallery, Cardiff Bay
On until Fri 14 Oct. Info: here
words and photos EWA PAŁKA