Artists Lisa Wright, Emma Vidal, Penny Byrne, Aaron Smith and Henry Hussey reference historical imagery and objects in a selection of new works, ranging photography and painting to porcelain figurines, charcoal and pencil sketches to bronze sculpture.
First Wright’s delicate paintings display an emotional connection to a variety of historical paintings, functioning as a pick and mix of borrowed imagery in her own very contemporary, at times brash, palette. These intimate pieces have seen Wright recently awarded the Hunting Art Prize, the National Open Art Prize and the 2013 Thread-needle Prize.
Vidal meanwhile, produces bold charcoal landscapes depicting a post-apocalyptic world gone awry, as figures warp and disappear in an unnerving but somewhat magical sense. Byrne transforms the 3D figure, combining and altering materials such as vintage porcelain figurines, plastic toys and children’s dolls to create wry and disturbing figurines which explore issues such as environmental concerns, pop culture and global politics. These mutilated figures, sometimes eternalised in bronze, have led the artist to gain a recent commission by Berengo Studios to create a Coat of Arms for the Venice Biennale.
Smith uses vintage photographs of solemn Edwardian and Victorian men to create expressionist portraits comprising bright planes of colour, beards in swirls of thick paint, chiselled cheekbones in bright blue and military medals picked out in fluoro purples. The work is created in contradiction with the original tone of his collected source material, however his paintings in fact intend to draw parallels between the rites of passage found in western culture and those rituals practised in tribal cultures. Therefore his unconventional palette is inspired by birds of paradise and the extravagantly decorated Huli Wigmen tribe of Papua New Guinea, who paint their faces yellow, red and white and wear ornamented wigs.
Finally, 2014 Bloomberg New Contemporary, Hussey, sketches ephemera ranging from objects found at the Ashmolean or the Pitt Rivers, to models of the RSC. Working in whatever medium suits best, his most recent work uses embroidery and dyes to communicate emotion.
Coates & Scarry: Vestige, until 21 February, Gallery 8, 8 Duke Street, St James’s, London SW1Y 6BN.
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1. Henry Hussey, Scrimshaw. Dyed and embroidered Damask. Courtesy of Coates & Scarry.