The exhibition brings together works in which a romantic view of nature is tempered by ambivalence. In the methods and formal strategies of the artists there is a sense that mere romanticism is insufficient to understand the distance, or lack thereof, between the artist and subject. Any romanticism that may remain is turned more towards painting itself.
Anne Fellner’s Point No Point series is based on webcam observations of a lighthouse on the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington State, near the artist’s childhood home. The lighthouse, isolated against the backdrop of the sea, is always an evocative motif. In this case though, it is not only romantic, but also personal. Through its digital distancing, however, the imagery in these ‘plein air’ paintings becomes faint, faraway and seemingly generic,
in turn opening up a space for Fellner’s painterly invention.
Manuela Gernedel’s coloured pencil drawings of meat return a viscerality to a subject we typically experience far abstracted from the horror of its origins. Yet the horror doesn’t return with the viscerality. Industrialised processing of animals for human consumption is almost the definition of ambivalence to nature, and this ambivalence underpins our ability to appreciate these works. They can be beautiful to us because we see them as exquisitely executed abstract objects.
Louise Sartor’s Dead bat & another dead bat reference Lucien Freud’s works of the same names. But where one might expect a gothic sensibility, there is instead disinterested objectivity, matched to a playfulness in the choice of background colour and support. As is typical of Sartor’s work, often painted on found materials -
postcards, packaging materials - here on old photograph mounting cards.
Benjamin Butler transforms his subjects – trees, mountains, flowers – through abstraction, systematisation and repetition, dulling the significance of the subject matter. Yet in his treatment of surface, colour and design, an alternative romanticism of material and process re-enters the work.
Sam Rountree Williams’ shell paintings are literally covered with cockle shells collected from the North Sea. Forms in the works likewise evoke the coast, yet the jarring synthetic colours and the quintessentially urban medium of spray paint keep any sentimentality in check, revealing a mischievousness that is reflected in the devilish figures that appear in some of these works.
Organised by Sam Rountree Williams