The exhibition Returning brings together three connected series of paintings, sculptures and monoprints by Freya Payne. Each series explores the theme of ‘returning’ through ideas relating to the cyclical rhythms of time, memory, physical experience and healing. Intimate and intricately detailed, her work is a poetic and symbolic response to the observation of the everyday, charting the ways in which we mark and narrate life’s meaningful and emotional moments.

The Passage paintings evoke instances of lucidity within the small, often overlooked details of domestic life. These include Surfacing, which depicts the face of a young child emerging from water in the bath, and the triptych After the Dressing Up, which honours the gaze of three elderly women. Displayed alongside the portraits are pared-down still life compositions, through which Payne enquires into the relationship between memory and our attachment to domestic objects. In Mother Altar and Father Altar a selection of care-worn tools and trinkets on mantelpieces can be seen to stand in for the people themselves. Payne is interested here in ‘enshrinement’ within the home, and questions how we, as a species, invest emotionally in our environment through narrative.

A series of small abstract wall-mounted sculptures titled Of Giving and Receiving similarly stand in as ritual-devotional objects. Sculpted from wood, bone and stone, materials collected by the artist from the landscape, they allude to the mysteries of the human form, their titles relating to areas of the body such as the head, eyes or stomach. Some take on simple organic shapes, while others unfold to reveal painted surfaces and hidden elements. For Payne, the materials with which they are made also relate to a sense of history, connecting the passage of time between the organic or geological formation of the material itself and the duration of their making.

A third series, titled Pathways draws together eight monoprints portraying portraits of young soldiers, based on found World War I photographs, with eight painted landscape studies. The method of printing blurs the faces of the soldiers, softening their gaze. In these images, we sense that they look outwards towards an uncertain future, which remains unknown to the viewer. The brilliant, jewel-like colours of the accompanying gouache landscape paintings provide a vivid contrast to the muted hues of the portraits, with an intensity and clarity of vision representing a heightened awareness of lived experience.

Freya Payne graduated from the Royal College of Art, London in 1994 and now lives and works in Scotland. She exhibits both nationally and internationally, and has won awards such as the Insight Investment Image of the Year Award 2007, Royal Academy of Arts; Cuthbert New Young Artist Award, Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts in 2005; and the prestigious Villiers David Prize in 1999.