Josephine Lyons’ next solo exhibition, Love in Palimpsests, opens 11th December at the Menier Gallery in Southwark and promises to be an affecting exploration of the links between portraiture, archive and memory. Taking the book as an inspiration and organising principle, Lyons extends her technical mastery of the painted portrait into a series of multi-dimensional narratives in the form of handmade folios on provocative subjects.
Unafraid to grapple with loaded themes such as love, landscape, art history and the formation of self, Lyons’ works – assemblages of small paintings on board, photographs, clippings and objects fixed to A4 pages – gradually reveal their origins in the erasure, elision and re-building evoked by the word ‘palimpsest’ in the show’s title.
It becomes obvious Lyons’ careful selection of the objects included in her folios has left many others on the floor of her personal archives. Some objects on the pages have been previously exhibited in different contexts; others are new and the text that binds them all together is the viewer’s only temporally consistent guide to the new direction the works are taking as an aggregate.
It is this process of re-arranging and selecting memories and artefacts that makes Lyons’ work so eerie and compelling – if she has picked, chosen and left behind in a quest for new meaning, the relativity of history and memory are called into question and we are reminded that our own identities shift in the same way. Like Auerbach’s heavily re-worked studies of favourite subjects, portraying the same person or neighbourhood differently from artwork to artwork, Lyons reminds us it is impossible to freeze truth or character in a single image.
Thanks to up and coming London-based artist Josephine Lyons, I learnt a new word today: Palimpsests (Her exhibition which opens December 11th is entitled ‘Love in Palimpsests- Memories of Imagination.’ ) A palimpsest is a parchment or scroll that has had the original text erased and has then has been written over. Over time this invisible text reappears ghostly under the over written text.
When I had exclusive preview of the carefully crafted books she will show as part of her December show at the Menier Gallery in South London, I understood why she had chosen such an obscure, esoteric term. She took the pictures rearranging them, plucking out and replacing them; constantly rewriting and reimagining the story which in the ghosts of moments past and almost forgotten appear within and around the images.
Lyons has been compiling these books of paintings, photographs and drawings since she was an undergraduate student at Goldsmith’s College, exploring visually and creating a sense of self, preserving precious moments in her own individual visual language. The text that accompanies the images are short, poetic, lyrical meditations on love, a theme which runs through all of Lyons’ work. She seems to take inspiration form artists such as Tracey Emin who explore questions of contemporary female identity, in a personal and introspective manner, far from the cold conceptualism that is favoured by some other Goldsmith’s Alumni.
Words: Sarah Dick and Caroline Oakley – November 2012
Love in Palimpsests, opens 11th December at the Menier Gallery in Southwark