CHARLIE SMITH LONDON presents ‘New London Figurative’. The exhibition is a response to the rising dominance of the use of the figure in contemporary art, presenting three new wave artists who work with the figure in profoundly contrasting ways.
Jelena Bulajić is concerned with the ageing human face. Her unrelenting gaze is realized in small scale and monumental paintings made from mixed materials. Her work in this exhibition consists of a series of watercolour and graphite pieces. Bulajić begins with photographs of mature men or women who are selected instinctively by chance encounter: “I use photographs as source material. The undiscriminating, mechanical gaze of the camera is of great importance to me, as it enables me to observe my subjects forensically. In recreating the human face through drawing and painting, I attempt to record the map of a face as a second skin sitting upon paper or canvas.”
Bulajić’s portraits are unparalleled technical accomplishments that might combine a unique use of materials including acrylic, emulsion, watercolour, pencil, ground limestone, marble dust and graphite powder. Taken at first sight as impeccable photorealist paintings, upon closer inspection Bulajić’s surfaces dissolve into highly complex abstract surfaces.
Dale Lewis’ monumental ensemble paintings are a direct response to his everyday life in the city of London. Painted with urgency, we are presented with populated interior or street views that investigate multiple topics including Britishness, gay culture, transformation, transvestism, binge drinking, violence, addiction and the 9-5. Drawing on real life experience, Lewis’ absorbing paintings reveal a unique insight into counter culture and the banal, thereby raising questions about street and night life; personal politics; inclusion and exclusion.
Lewis’s paintings are made after little or no physical preparation, but rather a psychological process that involves a sequential re-imagining of the painting after witnessing a particular event or moment. In wanting to avoid traditional genres, Lewis’ paintings of “the underpainted” are raw, urgent and fluid, and his use of materials and finish is non-hierarchical: “I want the paintings to look like they have just been peeled from the street”.
Claire Partington makes multi-layered ceramic figures. Embracing historic and contemporary visual tropes, Partington provides multiple reference points that can be read in numerous ways, allowing the viewer to bring their own interpretation to the work:
“The figures are a result of my interest in misinterpretation, reimagining, and part-truths that occur not only in folk tales and history, but also in art history. The intention of the sitter and artist to convey something quite specific can become blurred over time and reinterpreted or re-assimilated by our contemporary eyes.”
Partington’s ceramics are bravura displays of complex techniques. Her figures might consist of slab building, coiling, sprigging; and the use of glazes, transfers and metallic lustres. The resulting sculptures are undoubtedly objects of beauty, but which convey elements of humour and irony.
Image: Dale Lewis Eurovision 2015, courtesy of the artist
New London Figurative: Jelena Bulajić, Dale Lewis, Claire Partington – CHARLIE SMITH LONDON – 20 November to 19 December 2015