In Spain, the spectacle of the bullfight is known colloquially as la fiesta brava. It doesn’t take a highly skilled linguist to figure out that translates to something like the brave festival. It’s a far better description of what happens in the arena than simply bullfighting. To focus solely on the fighting disregards the respectful relationship between matador and beast during battle, the recognition of the courage required on both sides to enter the ring, rather than one species’ domination over the other.
It’s a term that has been playing over in my mind since the opening of Linde Ivimey’s new show Brave to the Bone at Martin Browne Contemporary last week, due in no small part to this being one of the standout works of the exhibition:
A handsome matador stands unprotected, confronted by a dominant opponent in the form of a large black dog. The dog is bearing down preparing to pounce; the matador is tense and ready to react. The name, Pas de Deux, references the dangerous ballet between a matador and his bull as they observe each other’s movements during battle. It is one of a series of works featuring black dogs in Brave to the Bone, inspired by the incredible fight Linde has put up over the last twelve months against that fearsome opponent cancer and it’s running mate depression, and the strength and humour she has shown throughout.
At the start of this year, I had an article published about Linde called Being Brave to the Bone. Though she was clearly chuffed at the bone reference in a story otherwise unrelated to her art practice, the word brave was something she was very reticent to embrace personally. Despite it being the one word that continued to come up in relation to her attitude during this time, she found it a hard thing to nominate about herself. I am so glad she eventually saw sense and adopted it as the title of this show, because it really is the perfect epithet.
Brave to the Bone is a triumph of spirit and courage over hideous darkness. It’s a common theme in Linde’s work, but this show does it differently. There is an air of pride about the sculptures in Brave to the Bone, an acknowledgement of what she survived and how much effort it took to do so. You can see it in the other black dog works, The Tamer and Bucking Black Dog, and in the pistol slinging Wilgefortis, who carries the name of the patron saint of women seeking liberation. Outwardly heroic, they keep their emotional scars well hidden.
There are vulnerable works too, ones that acknowledge the desperate position she found herself in when the constant jousting had her exhausted and overwhelmed, and the place of relative calm she seemed to arrive at when she found a way of accepting what was happening to her and putting her faith in a positive outcome.
Characteristically, there is also the dark humour that has played such a huge role in carrying her through her experiences. They are moments so recognisably Linde, the tongue in cheek mischief-maker never far from the surface, that you can’t help but smile. Bunnies kept afloat by champagne lifebuoys, a gold man named after the patron saints of bartenders, and tiny hypnotised figures performing for the crowd. It’s the Linde I like to see reappearing, for her sake more than anyone else’s.
This show is a culmination of a huge period of change. In a year when she became both the hunter and the hunted, the fighter and the fought, she is emerging victorious. As I stood in the gallery full of people celebrating Linde, I knew it wasn’t just her talent as an artist we were toasting but the fact that she was still here to gift us with it. It is both a relief and a privilege to know that’s the case, a la fiesta brava we can all take great delight in celebrating!
Brave To The Bone is showing at Martin Browne Contemporary until 22 June 2014.
For more on Linde, you can check out these links:
All images courtesy of Linde Ivimey, photographer Jenni Carter.