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Subsumed: Absorbing Surfaces

8 September – 15 November 2018
PV Tuesday 18 September

I’m delighted to have been given the opportunity to curate an exhibition for Contemporary British Painting at The Crypt at St Marylebone Church near Baker Street and Regents Park tube.

Curating this exhibition has been a fascinating way to explore what drives the artwork I make through the lens of other painters I admire and the way they succeed in finding the beguiling things I find irresistible in painting.

Subsumed Flyer

Artists: Benjamin Deakin, David Sullivan, Fiona Long, Nadja Plein, Paula MacArthur, Rhys Trussler, Sasha Bowles and Wendy Saunders.

past tense: subsumed; past participle: subsumed
1. include or absorb (something) in something else.

Each of the eight painters in this exhibition engage their practice with the experience of subsumption. Variously this can be in the absorbing act of painting itself, experienced by the painter; in the creating of surfaces that have the capacity to engulf the viewer, in images that stir up powerful and consuming emotions or in dealing with themes such as assimilation and negation.

A painting is an essentially flat surface, yet it may present an intriguing depth in many ways, the illusion of trompe l’oeil, and perspective being two of the most obvious, but tempo of mark making, weight of composition and colour, may all lead viewers through the surface.

Visitors descending into the subterranean Crypt at St Marylebone, are also subsumed since the word literally means ‘to absorb from below’. Here they are invited to consider how each individual work is absorbed into the whole curated body, even as they themselves may find individual works absorbing.

The Crypt, St Marylebone Church,17 Marylebone Road, London NW1 5LT

Private view: Tuesday 18th September, 6pm – 8pm
Exhibition dates: 8 September – 15 November 2018
Opening times: Mon – Fri 9am – 5pm. Sat 9am – 4pm. Sun closed.

Occasionally The Crypt closes for private meetings, you can phone ahead to check times on 020 7935 7315 or 07809330592.


Metropolitanical and detail

My new art practice utilises biofilms to create sculptural paintings. I’ve been developing this since 2014. I grow microbial cellulose surfaces from probiotic good bacteria and yeasts.

These intricate surfaces, resembling skin, are translucent and beautiful. I aim to make artworks that draw the viewer into the surface yet show a sense of decay and the visceral, intrigued by the slightly uncomfortable.

Mushroom Cave

Drawn to the Japanese ‘wabi-sabi’ aesthetic of beauty in the transient and imperfect, and how we react to the abject, I feel that these artworks can subtly convey themes of sustainability. Life-cycles, decay, ruin, and human relationships with nature are intertwined. I incorporate my interest in survival, bush-craft, and making-from-scratch into my practice, creating works which reference the past, and the now by using this alien yet seemingly familiar material with established art conventions like stretcher bars.

'Mother and Daughter' (2015) symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeasts, each 60x150cm

I consider my ‘Metro-Botanic’ works to be paintings in the ‘expanded field’ since they don’t use paint, brush, or canvas. They have a painterly sensibility and are very much about surface, colour, and allowing the glitches within the material to help drive my compositional decisions.

Beetroot dye on biofilm details

I’ve been investigating the utilisation and display of these intriguing films and have a wealth of ideas I still want to explore. I’m discovering ways to sculpt & collage the material and colour it with pigments which cling in a marbled fashion or natural dyes which impart intense translucent colour. I love exploring materials, testing them to their limits and using their unique properties.

Elbow Room

I learnt about these biofilms from my brother, who did vast amounts of research into kombucha, a health drink made from fermented tea, rich in probiotics, vitamins, and minerals. He used this knowledge to launch his skincare company Biomic, and here is its Facebook page. I used it to explore the culture which ferments the liquid, and grows as a by-product of the process, and how I could harness its properties to make art.

Surface Views

I suppose that with my interests in art and psychology, it’s natural that I’d be fascinated by how people move around an art gallery and how they engage with the artworks. I love noticing things that hide in plain sight and noticing how people react to things they’d usually ignore in the context of an art gallery where one it attuned to observe and contemplate.

Estate of Serenity, Oil on hinged board, 2014, 70x60x20cm

I decided to make a body of artwork encouraging the viewer not just to look but to see.

The scale and nature of the paintings encourages a private, voyeuristic experience of the erotically banal. Rather than hitting the viewer’s peripheral vision with a large painting I wanted to create structures that encourage the viewer to come closer and engage with the painting one at a time.

Invitation, oil on hinged board, 2014, 60x20x20cm

These “Surface Views” explore surface through form, inviting the viewer into a personal space in order to contemplate memento mori through urban decay. Where nature attacks the city, we are reminded of the transient beauty and the poetic beauty of imperfection.

Opening, Oil on board in found frame, 2014, 50x60cm

They create a paradox of entropic layers of paint depicting old paint affected by time and nature through trompe l’oeil. The depth of these layers is further distorted by the three dimensional form.

The implied use value of the visible hooks and hinges deepens the paradox.

Pipewerk, 2014, Oil on hinged board, 70x60x20cm

I investigate the way in which the banal and everyday can be humorously elevated through laborious scrutiny. My paintings playfully challenge our expectations of the urban environment and investigate the psychology of space. With attention, the most ordinary details can become magical or disturbing observations.

Pipewerk installed in it's site specific location...