Aftermath brings together a new series of works by Adam Gray and Sarah Kogan inspired by some of the most dramatic and overwhelming events in the past hundred years. The impact of a tsunami and the devastation wrought by the battle of Passchendaele, one of the major offensives of the First World War, are explored through abstract imagery, yet leaving space for the underlying narratives to permeate the paintings.
A former graduate of St Martin's School of Art, Adam Gray studied alongside Dexter Dalwood and Peter Doig with whom he shared a common interest in the understanding and control of the painting process. Gray's painting's evolve through a complex layering sequence balancing knowledge and chance, invention and discovery. His works expose a constant preoccupation with scale and spatial representation moving from highly precise details to more generous landscapes. In an interview with Adam Gray for the Observer Magazine, following his first solo show at the Anderson O'Day Gallery, Rosemary Hill once wrote 'his concern is with colour, line and texture. He finds the tendency to make rigid distinctions between abstract and figurative art 'annoying'. This stubborn resistance to categorisation remains true of Gray's current work. One of his paintings Silent Majority inspired Tom Hooper winner of this year's Oscar for Best Director for The King's Speech, to make his first film. This was subsequently shot in Gray's studio with a storyline derived from - and also using - his paintings. In his latest paintings, the artist evokes the tsunami imagery in a range of approaches spanning from disturbing to enigmatic, from constrained to tranquil depictions. As with his previous works, Gray exercises control over the process of disintegration and manifestations of chaos. The dense accumulation of elements is downplayed by their organized disposition in the space whereas abandoned landscapes and sceneries contrast with bright, yet deceptive colours.
The use of personal stories and narrative is a recurrent element in Sarah Kogan's practice. Although working in the tradition of Romantic landscape and notion of the sublime, Kogan anchors her works in contemporaneity by inducing a sense of uncertainty and feelings of emptiness and groundlessness. Engaged with the experience of looking from above, Kogan's aerial views and Google Earth imagery disrupt the horizon perspective and embrace the free fall. The viewer confronted with a meticulous play of textures and tones is challenged to question the medium as the works include strong photographic and sculptural elements. The art critic Julia Royse wrote of Sarah Kogan's work 'These beautiful and evocative works [and the] unsettling stillness of her images stirs the imagination.' (Elle Magazine).
Disintegration and mortality reappear as the unifying themes in this latest series of paintings. In Passchendaele, Kogan's interest in the pockmarked aerial view of the battlefield of the First World War began with the reading of her Great Uncle's illustrated letters sent home from the Somme, before he met his death, on the 1stJuly 1916, at the age of twenty. Decomposing brain-like organic masses are riddled with holes and intricate circular matter falls and flakes away. There is a sense of darkness and mystery in the work, which leaves us with a lack of certainty about the illusionary surface employed in the paintings and the psychological abstract nature of the images. Both landscape and abstract shapes are reminiscent of the grainy surface of black and white photography.
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