James Wright: The Nuns' Lobby

23 May 2008 – 6 Jul 2008

One in the Other

London, United Kingdom


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  • Bethnal Green

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One in the Other is pleased to present an exhibition of new paintings by James Wright. He completed an MA in Painting at the Royal College of Art, London 2005-07. Selected group exhibitions include Jerwood Contemporary Painters, Jerwood Space, London (2008), Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London (2007) and The Jerwood Drawing Prize, Jerwood Space, London (2006). The Nuns' Lobby is his first solo exhibition.
As Richard Dyer, Jerwood Contemporary Painters, writes, ‘Some of the painters in this exhibition chose to work within a tradition of painting that goes back several hundred years, but interrupt the flow of history by inflecting the work with a contemporary sensibility. James Wright's minutely rendered oval painting of Titian's Salomé with the Head of St John the Baptist (c1515) is manifest as the ripped remains of a billboard poster, complete with the name of the billboard company on the frame, ‘Titan' resonating neatly with the artist's name. The historic and the contemporary are dramatically conflated in such a manner that the art of painting is once again rendered relevant through its mediation via the contemporary urban landscape.'
James Wright's intensely observed paintings on seasoned oak panels revisit the work of artists from the Early and High Renaissance and Flemish Schools, with particular interest in artists such as Rogier van der Weyden. The traces of depictions such as The Deposition, The Passion, The Vanitas and The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian are recast in urban contemporary settings, and their narratives reconfigured through the accoutrements of inner-city street furniture such as graffiti, rubbish bags, cardboard boxes, traffic cones and unwanted possessions. Wright uses a vocabulary of symbols and motifs, often from History Painting but many of his own making to denote the themes of the original works he is revisiting.
In The Fated two commercial bin bags symbolise Joseph and Mary, wood shavings nestle neatly at the feet of Joseph and a halo of roadwork ribbon positions itself above Mary. Traffic cones represent the Trinity atop a partially visible makeshift cross, complete with a broken branch denoting a truncated life. In The Futility a discarded clock and bunch of flowers with vase, represent nature and time amidst the strewn debris around. A large graffiti skull in the background completes the vanitas triumvirate. Wright also draws on other aspects of a tradition within painting and whilst many of his works are connected through embedded meaning some are openly self-referential and celebratory. The Tribute is very much that, a tribute to the work of Titian as seen through the peeling remains of a billboard poster disclosing the imagery of the painting The Tribute Money (c1518).
Wright's painting The Witness is unambiguously centered on St. Sebastian. Above the pile of dishevelled cardboard boxes is an electrical ‘danger of death' sign. Metal rods penetrate the boxes releasing paint, or ‘blood', and on the side are printed ‘this way up' arrows and C/NO, paraphrasing ‘see no evil'. On the wall beside is the acronym graffiti ‘if destroyed still true' relating to St. Sebastian's death and subsequent martyrdom.

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