Featuring painting, glasswork and film, SNAKE SHAPE LAKE highlights a multifaceted practice interconnected and informed by personal and collective memory, landscape, history, ritual and mythology. Warboys received a BA from the British institution Falmouth College of Arts, Cornwall (2001), and completed her postgraduate studies at Slade School of Art, London (2004). Warboys lives and works in Suffolk, UK and Berlin, Germany.
The exhibition features work from the series River Wax Paintings, which take their departure from Warboys’ Sea Paintings, where the beach becomes the studio and the canvas becomes a record of the littoral - its physical aspects and symbolic undercurrents. Recalling the giants of 20th century landscape painting, Warboys’ Sea Paintings are sublime and monumental; visceral marks scatter across the surface, sea spray is palpable and ocean depths are suggested in tidal waves of colour. The series, made across beaches in the UK, was the focus of the artist’s recent major solo exhibition at Tate St. Ives (UK) and her presentation at dOCUMENTA 13 (Kassel, Germany).
In her most current body of work, River Wax Paintings, Warboys has introduced the river as a site for making, as well as incorporating a new element in her longstanding process. The canvases are painted with large gestural strokes in aromatic hot liquid bees wax before introducing them to the river and mineral pigments. Referencing Batik, much of the wax is then removed. Elaborating on her method, the artist states:
“They are then taken to a river close to my studio in Suffolk called ‘the Little Ouse,’ pronounced ooze. Here they are soaked, uninterrupted they float and drift, they are pushed and pulled until they are fully submerged...Once dry, the fields of pigment reveal the serpentine lines.”
(Jessica Warboys, 2019)
There is ritual in Warboys’ process, a magic to the distinct shapes appearing on the canvas. The meandering pattern created echoes both a winding waterway and Warboys’ series of Snake Paintings and stained glass works. The artist leaves the snake motif open to interpretation, allowing the viewer to engage with the visual repetition of arcs throughout the works in the exhibition. The snake symbol has been evolving since it first appeared by happenstance – as a shadow of a small glass hoop in Warboys’ 2011 film, Stone Throat.
Unprimed, unstretched and unframed, Warboys’ River Wax Paintings are hung in response to the architecture of the spaces in which they are installed. Instead of forming conclusions, the artist offers us one moment in a possibly-endless display of iterations. Large in scale, the viewer is engulfed in a tableau of collaged paintings.
For SNAKE SHAPE LAKE Warboys has made a two-channel film and soundscape, Moon Burn / Moon Wave (2019),which collages together outtakes from films produced in the last decade. Exploring how her past work resonates in the context of her current practice, this cyclical piece reframes the work as a whole, sequences sealed within loops and echoes rather than isolated narratives. Fantastical glimpses of landscapes and sculptures, a cast of characters, doubling and unfolding across the screens. The accompanying soundscape was created by Morten Norbye Halvorsen, in which two loops of soundwaves drift in and out, by chance matching up in amplitude, which in turn modulates throughout the space.
In this exhibition, the paintings and soundscape create an immersive environment, punctuated by glasswork. Warboys has developed these strands of her practice for two decades, evolving methods and rhythmically perpetuating works interconnected visually and thematically. Considered and meditative, the works lie in the realm between the observed and the magical. Warboys’ deep connection to the landscape, its histories and folklore, results in atmospheric, transcendental works that are an antidote to the digital age.
Jessica Warboys (b. 1977 Newport, Wales) is based in Suffolk, UK and Berlin, Germany, where she works with film, painting and sculpture.
Warboys’s selected group exhibitions include: dOCUMENTA 13 Kassel, Germany, Artists Film International, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (2012); the 9ª Bienal do Mercosul Porto Alegre, Brazil (2013); the British Art Show 8 (2016); and Surface Work, Victoria Miro, London (2018). Selected solo exhibitions include: Land & Sea, Credac, Paris, France (2011), Victory Park Tree Painting, Cell Project Space, London, (2011), Ab Ovo, Spike Island, Bristol, UK, (2013); Glade, Museum M, Leuven, Belgium and Ad Lib, State of Concept, Athens, Greece (2015); Angle Poise, Kunstverein Amsterdam, Netherlands; and Topo Scenic, Kunsthall Stavanger, Norway (2016), Hill of Dreams, Tate St Ives, Cornwall, UK; Body Sleep, Gaudel de Stampa, Paris, France (2017), Echogap, Towner, Eastbourne, UK (2017) and Italian Hours, Galleria Gentili, Florence, Italy (2019). Selected Film and Performance events include: Prospectif Cinema, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (2015); Hill of Dreams, Tate Britain, London (2016); and Hoop Eye Dance Trance, CAPC, Bordeaux, France (2017).