HEREDITY exhibition at Lazarides Gallery, Newcastle,

"I discovered that when you are descended from Pig farmers and Showgirls, you can be anything you want to be"

While working on her book, 'From Pig Farmers and Showgirls, Elizabeth uncovered dark and sometimes disturbing family secrets; stories which moved her to look deeper through dusty photo albums and forgotten family ephemera to try to understand her own heritage.

Through oil paintings and drawings on antique papers and objects appear sensitive portrayals of Elizabeth's father; first as a cheeky young lad and later as an older man. Another, more ephemeral figure drifts through the work; her great-grandfather Cyril who was killed by a German U-boat long before she was born. Few photographs survive of Cyril, and little information beyond what Elizabeth records in her book. In one drawing his image appears, ghostlike, on the cover of an antique book, its foxed pages glued shut and sealed inside a vitrine-like box-frame, hinting the notion that when a person dies it is like a book filled with information and experience gathered over a lifetime - or rather a library full of such books - is irrevocably lost.

Some of the strongest work... is drawn from her... collection entitled 'Heredity', where she deploys her by-now considerable technical skills in intimate and sometimes breathtakingly lifelike portraits of members of her own family. After all the paintings of hooded youths and tattooed young men in crucifixion-inspired poses, she seems to discover her metier in the wrinkles of old men's faces. 

Particularly striking is a lifesize portrait in oils of her paternal grandmother, the 'Queen Bee'... and the almost impossibly weathered features of her maternal Grandfather, 'The Man with the Fish in His Eyes', whose face is a tribute to a lifetime of sun and cigarette abuse.

My Planet Liverpool magazine

HEREDITY exhibition at Lazarides Gallery, Newcastle

Each piece tells a story; some personal, banal, sad, secret or mysterious. 'Howie's Hands I' is a portrait of the artist's father inspired by the character in his talented woodworking hands as well as her childhood memories of "helping" him saw wood on old trestles by sitting on them to stop them wobbling. The saw he holds in the painting was given to him by his late father, and was thought to have been lost in a workshop fire which took thousands of pounds worth of equipment collected over a lifetime. It was only saved from immolation because Elizabeth had borrowed it and "Howie" was delighted to find it preserved in her shed, miraculously unharmed.

On seeing their commissioned portrait, many of Elizabeth's clients report seeing not only themselves in their painting, but the features of their forbears hidden in their own. As she paints, Elizabeth sees her father as a boy, but also herself, her cousins etc, and sees how the same person's features alter over the decades, between the tattered black and white photographs and the modern digital ones she takes as her source material. These 'maps of experience' challenge the artist and provide an opportunity to push her technique, lending her licence to revel in the qualities of flesh, and the paint itself, as never before.