Thursday, 24 November 2011

Neon Knights

At last weekend's 'Open Studios' event, a visitor said that my recent 'suit of armour' paintings reminded him of the artwork for Black Sabbath's 'Neon Knights' an unintentional connection, but one I rather like. My initial googling couldn't find the proper sleeve art he mentioned, but I have found these rather splendid images:

And here are the mighty Sabbath performing said number:

A good combination of kitsch metal sleeve art, shoddy historical references and day-glo colours - what's not to like?

Monday, 21 November 2011

Wonderlust - Exhibition Images

Some images of the Wonderlust exhibition at APT in Deptford. Exhibiting artists are Charles Campen, Leah Clough, Rodney Dee, Tom Helyar-Cardwell, Kelly Jackson, James Jeff Lindley, Jera May, Luke Ottridge and Jamie Taylor, curated by Kelly Jackson and James Jeff Lindley.

APT is a great gallery space with very high ceilings in the main space, as well as a glass canopy at the front. The curators have made good use of subdued lighting and the resulting semi-darkness of the space to give the works featured a numinous feel and promotes an atmospheric, intimate viewing experience. Several pieces use film and video, so the low lighting works well for these. For those of us showing paintings, the lighting has been slightly offset rather than directed straight onto the work, creating an effect similar to the way works are often lit in Italian churches, which is an association that works very well for me.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Postmodern Vanitas

Matthew Day Jackson at Grimm

 Whilst wandering around Amsterdam last week I stumbled across Matthew Day Jackson's solo show at Grimm gallery - a really nice surprise. The work is carefully made with a nice sensitivity to materials, and was meticulously presented - even down to new floorings having been put in to complement the theme of the show, which apparently is about domestic spaces and materials. 
It chimed well with me, as I had just been at the Rijksmuseum encountering some of my all-time favourite still life painters first hand (Willem Kalf, Willaim Claesz-Heda etc.)

In this context Day Jackson's show felt like a consummate updating of the vanitas genre, even though invocations of the 'v' word are all too easy to make just because there are skulls in the work.
It wasn't just the skulls though, I think it was the juxtaposition of these with the everyday materials used - stuff like carpeting, worktop laminates, faux leather as well as more industrial stuff.

Day Jackson's work put me instantly in mind of Ricky Swallow, another artist with an obsessive level of finish and skill in materials. Day Jackson would seem to reference Swallow's use of the skull in 3D pieces, as well as the cabinets of Damien Hirst. The use of UK road systems cut out from maps to form the blood vessels over the skeleton in the image above would also seem to owe a debt to Jonathan Parsons' meticulously cut maps from the '90s.

Of course, referencing the work of others whether directly or indirectly, consciously or subconsciously, is what we all do as artists. Far from being a negative thing, it is useful to locate one's practice amongst that of our peers or historical antescendants. No one wants to be derivative, but I think derivation in its negative form is only an issue when the practice in question is unaware of its debts. This doesn't seem to be the case with Day Jackson - the show felt comfortable with its references, and secure in its own identity.

 Willem Kalf 

Ricky Swallow

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Humanity's Hunt for the Amazing, the Epic and the Unimagined

I'm showing paintings in the exhibition Wonderlust - below is some text which describes the theme of the show: 

The desire for wonder is a condition that the human race has repeatedly expressed and explored. Whether through religion, art, science fiction, or technological marvels, we yearn for fantastical worlds, other realities, exotic cultures and a more spectacular everyday experience.

We live in an age where we increasingly seek the new, the amazing, the unknown, or the unimagined; whether expressed through our consumption of ever-changing consumer products and new fashions and tastes, or through our need for the novel and ever more exciting experiences of exotic travel, extreme sports, and spectacular events. 

In opposition to this, there is burgeoning movement towards slowing down and resurrecting a nostalgic version of the past. “Retro” and “Vintage” clothing, music and lifestyles all speak of a search for wonder through “real” and “authentic” experience in a perfect imagined past that never really existed.

Our insatiable desire for the new, for the better, and our belief that the grass is always greener represent humanity's hunt not for the truth, but for fantasy and excitement, perfection and nostalgia.

Wonderlust opens tomorrow, Thursday 10th November 6-9pm at APT Gallery, Deptford SE8 4SA.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Wonderlust Paintings

 Some initial photos of 3 new paintings I've just finished for the upcoming exhibition Wonderlust which opens this Thursday 10th November at APT Gallery in Deptford.

They are based on sourced images of antique objects from various collections - all with associations of power, prestige, and now obsolete technology.
The presentation is reminiscent of the museum cabinet type space, with the unnatural illumination giving a theatrical focus to the object, and an air of mystery and heightened drama.
There is a direct visual reference here to the language of Dutch still life genre, known for its meticulous representation of spotlit objects in dark spaces, infusing common items with a sort of numinous presence.

It is this quality of light that I want to evoke in these works, picking out the subjects and displaying them for the viewer like a wunderkammer.

I have also been experimenting with new ways of constructing the paintings - trying to recreate better the feel of the era I am referencing. These have all been underpainted in shades of crimson or magenta, with darker tones layered up on top (often in contrasting warm blues - prussian blue or pthalocyanine blue lake), followed by highlights. 
I have tried to allow areas of the underpainting to show through, giving the finished works a warm, glowing feel. 
The plan is now to expand these into a larger series.

The Wonderlust exhibition opens Thursday 10th November 6-9pm and runs until 27th November, open 12-5pm Thursday-Sunday at APT Gallery, Harold Wharf, 6 Creekside, Deptford, London SE8 4SA.