A tired single mum cradles her infant and a remote control, their faces lit by a desktop screen, while London at night is laid out beneath the window. An office intern performs his prayers on a rooftop, the City of London with its tall buildings and cranes before him. A venerable London church sits quietly in the moonlight, kept company by a sleeping homeless man and a security guard glimpsed through a nearby office window . . .
These are some of the scenes from When The City Is Built, thirty new paintings by Julian Bell, which he describes as ‘a hymn to the great 21st century city which is London’.
Each painting, with its own terse one-word title (Flightpath, Bridge, etc), stands alone as a work of art. Together, they form a panorama of one day in the metropolis as experienced by a handful of imagined people. The story that holds them together – one with emotional, political and spiritual resonances – is meant to be written not on the page but purely in the viewers’ minds. The paintings veer from personal and intimate experiences to the public sphere: a rooftop bar, business meetings, a supermarket checkout, a passport queue.
It is clear that the real subject is London and that the exhibition reflects the artist’s love of the city and his curiosity in people.
Julian says: ‘Each painting leads me into different places and different thoughts. I start each day with buoyancy so I hope there is some tenderness in the paintings, some love, people helping each other. There is a balance of trying to explore emotional as well as metropolitan experiences.
‘I hope it says that painting is a good way of thinking about contemporary life and the textures of experience. What things feel like these days. I want to show the maelstrom of the contemporary world: there are divine possibilities, but more of the time you are in the middle of the shit.’
Welcome to When The City Is Built. For further information and images please visit https://www.sarahokane.co.uk