Josh Lilley Gallery has firmly established itself into the contemporary art scene in London despite only being up and running for around three years now; Lilley himself took the time to explain his role and relationship with the artists he represents to us visitors with a refreshingly straightforward and direct approach, showing genuine enthusiasm for the Wright's work, currently on show.
Painter Vicky Wright spoke eloquently and warmly about the production of the work, and the huge range of disparate literary, socio and economic influences at work within them. This exhibition builds on earlier work where loosely painted expressive portraits were produced on the reverse side of panels, 'revealing hidden political agendas within the history of industry and art'. Here we were met the surprising surface of mainly unprimed sheet panel, reminiscent at times of altarpiece triptychs, at others of packing crates. The paint surface itself is rich and layered; initial ethereal swirls of wet-on-wet paint give way at closer inspection to the suggestion of tangible forms and subject matter ghosting its way to the surface: they sucked me in.
|Guardian LVII, 2011|
|Out of a Centre Which is Neither Dead Nor Alive 2012 (back view) Oil on wooden crate|
Following the recent London riots, Wright explained that she found a message posted onto a bus stop, with a link to an anonymous author's conspiracy-theory paranoid text, which raged about the organisations which controlled the world holding us 'like a snake slowly constricting its prey'. Her work responds to this idea of controlled chaos, and struggle - quite literally in the slippage found between the abstract and the trompe l'oeil, both of which seem to feature in her paintings, smoking between each other.
I found the paintings utterly compelling, but perhaps intensely dark - there seemed little room for hope. I put this to Wright, who responded that she hoped that there were still glimmers of hope fighting the overriding sense of paranoia and suspicion in the works - and indeed symbols such as books and industrial towers can indeed be interpreted in entirely contrasting ways; for me though the muted palette overwhelmed the minor flashes of turquoise and oranges which might serve to lift the overall tones - not that I think this is in any way a drawback. (The paint Wright used is particularly high in mineral content, and was sourced specifically for the work.)
I hadn't been aware of Wright's work previously, but I will certainly be looking out for the next show. Compelling stuff.