Ellie Kammer's Endometriosis (Imponderable) depicts a woman in repose. She lies on her back, legs bent and angled to the left, bathed in golden light. Only the barest sliver of her profile is visible. In lieu of regarding her face, our eye is drawn to the landscape of her body: the dark shadow that falls from thigh to pudendum, the delicate tufts of pubic hair, the organic swell of her breasts. It could be a peaceful image — were it not for the erratic rivulets of blood that mark her stomach and thighs. This painting, and all the paintings in NESCIENCE, can be understood as a provocation: they externalise the inner suffering of women, bringing to light a disease that, although rarely spoken about, effects one
in ten women.

Kammer peoples her work with poignant bodies rather than model ones: fleshy and blunt, with breasts, bellies and thighs that have a palpable weight. Subtly visible beneath the skin are bluish rivers of veins. These bodies are imperfect. Vulnerable. In them, we see Kammer's devotion to recording in unflinching detail the experience of endometriosis. These paintings are pain, made flesh.

Kammer paints in an almost sculptural way, manipulating the oils in short, dabbed marks or intuitive, arabesque curves. The vocabulary of her palette catches the light: butter-cream, rose madder, sienna, salmon red, the odd insinuating purple. Even her blues are light-filled. In each portrait, the eye is drawn to the blood. Rendered in viscous dabs and smears, the use of startling red and thick, soupy blacks serve as a reminder of the harsh reality of her disease.

At the heart of the exhibition are two self-portraits, resonant with troubling beauty. In both paintings, Kammer turns her face away from the viewer; in both paintings her eyes are closed. She paints herself not nude in the classical sense, but naked: exposed, vulnerable. Observe the thickly applied, suggestively broken paintwork, the intimately unfinished finish — this is self-preservation through expression. 'Distorted perspective', wrote photographer Grete Stern, 'will always give the effect of insecurity.' These portraits are both an expression of Kammer's insecurities and a gesture towards resolving them: the artist regards her own body, and perhaps, through the act of painting, arrives at a place of peace.

Nescience, 2017

Nadia Bailey