Ordinary Bodies, Ordinary Bones, includes large-scale, gestural and impasto, oil painting shown alongside energetic works on paper and a handful of raw sculptural works, all made over the past three years.
Each work emphatically casts light on the artists intense and introspective fascination with the universal mundanity and complexity of everyday existence acknowledging that life is made up of a paradoxical combination of deeply meaningful and utterly insignificant happenings and states of being. Themes such as isolation, addiction, love, sex, paranoia, empathy, fear and death are all visited and shared.
Litten is considered as a striking innovator with an awareness that, in the words of Virginia Woolf, ‘masterpieces are not single and solitary births: they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice’.
In ‘Soon She Will be Gone’, created in response to a near loss of life, a pulse like rhythm runs through the figure from left to right, breaking up and changing colour as it goes.
In ‘Sudden Involuntary Chemical Withdrawal’, a saturated, acidic whirling yellow background frames, immerses and overcomes an agitated male figure. Reminiscent of Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ (1893) the painting elucidates a palpable sense of struggle and alienation.
In ‘Paranoid Head, a solitary figure, trembles with intense and erratic energy, quivering with nervousness and fear. Litten doesn’t describe these as self-portraits - instead they are a mirror reflecting universal, wide-spread feelings of social unease.
‘Street Shrine’ was made in response to conversations with a couple coping with the loss of their teenage child. The exposure to grief is never far away in life - all of us must have experienced the sudden emotional jolt encountering a road side shrine, feeling hit by mortality at the sight of a familiar public space altered by private grief. The street is our street, we are all witnesses, the grief is a shared loss. The painting is an alter of shared emotion towards our collective fragility.
Ordinary Bodies, Ordinary Bones is an exhibition full of tales, each challenging yet compelling, the combination creates an emphatic, universal tableau of the unguarded human condition.
The exhibition coincides with a small retrospective of Andrew Litten’s studies and assemblages showing at the Royal Cornwall Museum entitled ‘Archive (selected works 1990-99)’ and has been developed with support from Arts Council England.