Nettle Grellier’s She Always Does Have a Good Time depicts a well-constructed and distinct world. In each painting, we see small and sensuous moments that are depicted with tenderness. Yet, Grellier balances a storybook innocence and naivety with a distinctly sinister atmosphere. We have the impression of adult thoughts and desires and bodies being trapped uncomfortably within a childish world of games. Occasionally, we see moments of violence breaking through the calm and subdued atmosphere. This is perhaps most clearly seen in the work Do As You Please (Yank My Tongue).
This painting is a snapshot of a character caught in a moment of intense emotion. As is typical of Grellier’s work, the subject is naked – a childish, uninhibited nakedness. The rounded shapes of her body are complemented by a close background of a dry stone wall, constructed from smooth and weighty boulders. Her face is alive with a wild emotion that stabs through the calm and stands sharply against the other curving forms. Her hair flies as she jerks her head, creating writhing snake-like curls. (An implied link to the character Medusa of Greek mythology). One arm leaps upwards across her body and is positioned to cover our view of her neck. The continuity between body and head is disrupted. She has been beheaded by her own arm – the head is severed by the violence of her (re)action. The discrepancy between the ferocity of her emotion and the simply-formed objects and landscape around her offers an exemplary example of the sense of humour with which Gellier crafts her scenes.
One may read the narrative of this moment in two distinct ways. We may see the character as pointing out to sea, down to the shore, beckoning and cheering, ordering some companion to join her in a charge. One may equally read this work as depicting the character in a moment of intense shock and horror. Her arms flail as she instinctively throws her body through space away from some object-cause, a view of which we are denied. Thus, just as Grellier holds us between the innocent and the eerie, we are held between two narratives; a forward-facing and joyous call to charge ahead and a backward-facing and horrified reaction to something behind. The world Grellier depicts is intensely atmospheric. Each painting in She Always Does Have a Good Time contributes to this world’s construction, while individually grasping at our sensitivity for juvenile emotion
(By Tom Winter)