Huxley-Parlour Gallery, London, will exhibit works from seven contemporary artists who use varying degrees of figuration in their work as a way to explore the potential of painterly abstraction, and how this abstraction can extend and deepen narrative. Each artist uses their own particular form of mark making – from the gestural and intuitive to the precise – to explore story telling, lived experience and traces of memory. Through a tightly curated selection of twenty works made in the past 12 years, the exhibition will explore the complexities inherent to image making and representation.
The work of artists Stephen Chambers RA, John Copeland and Emma Fineman explores painting’s gestural potential and the tensions between surface materiality and narrative. Chambers’ works invite the viewer into a series of imagined narratives, investigating themes of identity and nationhood in dream-like landscapes inhabited by expressive figures. Copeland’s nude figures are often drawn from images found in 1960s porn and erotic magazines, distorted in thick layers of paint. The energy of his raw brushstrokes and use of thick impasto imbues his expressionistic paintings with darker tones; referencing libidinous human drives concealed within everyday experiences. Fineman’s work inhabits the borders of drawing and painting; her subjects are sketchily traced before she begins a process of prolonged gestural painting. Often drawn from memories, Fineman abstracts the forms and figures in her compositions into simplified shapes and swathes of bright colour.
Contemporary landscape painting will be represented in the exhibition by Goan artist Karishma D’Souza. Bounding abstraction and representation, D’Souza reconstructs imagined and remembered scenes to create surreal and abstracted landscapes, often incorporating numerous scenes on one canvas, influenced by memory, poetry, politics and psychology.
Works by Eileen Cooper RA, Iris Schomaker and Ella Walker are driven by the process of drawing. The surfaces of these artists’ work testify to their working methods, revealing pencil marks, and strong, graphic outlines. Schomaker’s silhouetted, monochrome forms are often found caught in private moments of introspection, her works exploring abstraction through the reduction of both form and colour. In contrast, Walker’s use of various media – tempera, gesso, pastel and ink – are complex, using pattern and flat plains of colour to disrupt the structure and narrative of the work. Cooper produces lyrical figurative paintings that encompass themes of fertility, sexuality, motherhood, life and death. She presents highly stylised imagined worlds that allude to magical realism in their use of totemic symbols, flattened space and fractured, dreamlike narratives.
The exhibition will present a number of diverse approaches to contemporary figuration and to materiality, whilst highlighting the shared affinities and common approaches to painting held between these artists.