Matthew Hindley, The Grace of the Witch, 2010_TNCM Collection

- Matthew Hindley was born in Cape Town where he is still based. The composition, austere subject matter and minimal paint application of this painting is reminiscent of James McNeill Whistler’s Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1 (1871) best known under its colloquial name Whistler's Mother. Whistler’s painting is often attributed with appeals to notions of motherhood and family values that were popular at the time.
The female figure in Hindley’s painting is more relaxed than Whistler’s Mother, she has kicked off the constraints of her high heeled shoes and her head is turned to one side, eyes closed and a soft smile on her face. A vase of flowers behind her adds to the domesticity of the scene. This banal everyday view is partially in conflict with the intriguing choice of title which suggests an opposition between women as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Hindley’s visual reference to Whistler’s Mother is tied up with more complex notions of ‘mother-witch’. ‘Mothers’ conventionally fall into the ‘good’ category, while contemporary visual culture already tells us that ‘witches’ will unquestionably be categorised as ‘bad’. In visual culture currently, we mostly expect for a witch to be an old, wrinkled crone clad in black and bearing a broomstick. Age and beauty play an important factor in this stereotypical idea of witches; but here Hindley has painted a youthful, elegant woman.