AboutFor his first solo exhibition with Poppy Sebire, James Aldridge presents a selection of large paintings, watercolours and sculptural work. With influences ranging from natural history to heavy metal, the artist continues to explore themes around knowledge, belief and good and evil.
Aldridge's expansive canvases unite psychedelia with the arcane. In their animalistic imagery, dense compositions and heterogeneous painterly techniques, there is an explosion of the natural order, whilst the decorative runs amok. The new paintings bring three-dimensional elements to an otherwise graphic sensibility: illusionistic bird illustrations overlay intricate patterns of foliage and silhouetted beasts. The atmosphere can appear violent and disorderly, as in the bloodlike streams of red paint which drip from birds' beaks. Imagery from Christian as well as esoteric and occult symbols draws attention to the function of symbolism and the role of superstition. These disparate elements and the interplay between depth and surface, symmetry and asymmetry forge a tension between the real and the fantastic; they invoke different modes of meaning. The paintings form their own language. In addition to natural history field guides, they reference black metal band logos; these are similarly complex, also featuring forms from the natural world. Like Aldridge's paintings, they require invested looking and create their own rules of reading.
In Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison's Objectivity, the authors explain how the scientific ideal of objectivity is a modern phenomenon, which supplanted previously privileged ways of knowing. Aldridge is interested in different paradigms of knowledge and their visual manifestations as means to belief. His watercolours reference historical conventions of ornithological imaging, whilst embellishing these with transgressive details and variations, as in his bird-head mandalas. These delicately rendered aberrant conglomerations suggest scientific discovery and classification, and their subversion.
Aldridge lives in the Swedish forest. His recent sculptural series employing birdhouses (âholk' in Swedish) reflects on the local ecology as well as the ironies of anthropomorphism. The battered old objects take on a talismanic quality in the gallery; engineered by humans and defaced by birds and the elements, they appear as both natural and cultural relics. Through various processes of destruction and restoration, the artist completes the Holk's metamorphoses. He links these subversions to the nihilism of black metal: here different models of belief concerning the natural world and within musical subcultures merge. They reveal Aldridge's ultimate concern for âa belief in images and how that shapes and reflects an understanding of environment and everything around usâ¦ and how subjective that can be'.