Kate Lyddon: If You Want to Dance, Dance

17 Jul 2009 – 15 Aug 2009


London, United Kingdom


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  • 8,67,149,242,243,388
  • Liverpool Street / Old Street and Shoreditch High St. overground

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On immediate impact (somehow the boxing/car crash metaphor seems utterly apt), KateLyddon's paintings depict a world of abandon and excess. In these acute quasi-narratives (nonetheless Grand for all that) scraps of paper and real hair trail across the canvas like discarded clothes. There is something deliberately seedy here but any element of Bacon is much much younger and lighter (more legible? a less bleary eye?) and the desolation is soaked in snakebites not champagne. A lurid saga of teenage disappointment rather than hard-won despair. In fact her work can be read as bringing together two unlikely (if hardly impossible) bedfellows, though the comparisons soon fall apart: the particular sado/maso defensive strategies of Bacon's raw emotion and Hockney's sardonic glibness didn't seem open to awoman artist back then, and hardly are nowadays, (hardly necessary, we could say - who needs that much posturing now?) Bacon is off the hook then - indeed off the peg. And instead of masochism there is agimlet eye that skewers like Van Dongen or Ffeiffer, and what looks like a confessional Hello! from-the-gutter element in her work is actually sharp-eyed observation. Scaled up, in the largerworks the characters take on a hieratic quality but are still like us: allegorical figures from a Biblical or even Hindu epic - petty Gods obsessed by their own melodramas. Pop Idol reality TV Ramayana. In a strange way she seems hardly a painter at all, so strongly does she come across asa chronicler or satirist of the Youtube demi-monde. But seen in strict painterly terms she isclosest to an amazing amalgam of early and very late Matisse, where the decoupage vies withthe paint in its bravado, elegance and simplicity. Deliberately countering painterly indulgences -she puts the fauve into faux naive - the immediacy of her approach is the key. Some scenes carrywritten explications in biro; the walls of her theatres are faced with coarse anaglypta. Despite the indulgence on stage there's a fierce and even moral economy in their execution. Luxe calme et volupte turned a little sour - in fact a Neue Sachlichkeit of polydiscos,bacardi breezers and running mascara. The delicacy of the handling of the materials matchesher deft plotting in theatrical terms (her mise en scene equally so). The emotions andpsychology of her protagonists in their slew of accessories and props, sidestepping the trap of glibness in either execution or thought, have an abstract grace that only the most sophisticated of story-tellers can manage.

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