Though Lucy McLauchlan is often described as a street artist, her latest exhibition, “Marking Shadows” at London’s Lazarides gallery, has more to do with the light and trees than the bricks and concrete of her hometown of Birmingham. In fact, the British artist considers herself more of an “outdoors artist”—one who simply prefers to work al fresco—and is urban only in that she lives in a city.
To create this latest body of work, McLauchlan visited a local park, pinned large canvases to trees, and incorporated found objects into abstract compositions that document fleeting moments of interaction between humanity and the environment. In creating the works directly in contact with the park, McLauchlan both intervenes and connects with the natural elements of her city.
The resulting work is more abstract than her murals and studio paintings, which often feature graphic, black-and-white patterns, birds, and faces with a nearly tribal sensibility. Instead, here her sweeping brushstrokes and mark-making experiments trace the very textures of an oasis of nature amid the city: the roughness of bark, the curve of the landscape.
In this way, the works are more direct and simultaneously more distant from traditional landscape depiction. While viewers may not immediately see images of trees in a black-and-white tiger-stripe patterned canvas, the works intimately evoke the feeling of running one’s hands along the trunks of trees, much like the childhood pastime of creating crayon rubbings of their textured surfaces.
The work is anything but child’s play, however. McLauchlan’s deft handling of pattern and judicious dashes of bright color call to mind the work of Wade Guyton, an artist who achieves a similar aesthetic effect from a nearly opposite process: creating similar stop-and-start patterns by using an inkjet printer. Much like Guyton’s work references technology’s art-making potential while making an artistic statement beyond it, McLauchlan uses her work to subtly comment on humanity’s relationship to nature in the city of the 21st century.