The Utilitarians and Refined Linen demonstrate how the use of traditional techniques or materials can imbue new work with an aura of grandeur associated with the history of the material - in this instance, linen. While Sonmor’s paintings, as well as the work of Grisey, Harrison, Mabb, and Vickers, are entwined with history through the use of this material, each artist approaches linen in unique and intimate ways.
Kevin Sonmor applies art historical conventions whose original purposes no longer have hold. Instead of using them to convey wealth, affluence, or military might, Sonmor engages in a pure aesthetic exploration. In his latest body of work, Sonmor continues his investigation of colour and atmosphere to elicit the grandeur. These new paintings are part of his ongoing inquiry, but introduce an intensified sense of the Gothic. Sonmor’s seductive paintings are fantastical new worlds, full of brooding abstracted landscapes and intensely coloured plump and ripe still lifes. Hints of unseen inhabitants play around the edges of his subjects, luring the viewer in while whispering the possibility of danger. Deep velvet reds and royal blues present an invitation to a sanctuary, but disguise forms that may hide behind the folds of colour. Sonmor’s masterful handling of intense texture and colour transforms the gallery space into his own romantic world where luminous paintings offer the only points of light amid the darkness.
Mary Grisey focuses on materials and experience to generate an atmosphere. Through her animate, tangled sculptures, she reveals the layers of her work, pulling them away as Sonmor builds his up, to create an active environment. There are hints of danger as well as seduction in her baring of layers.
Neil Harrison engages the dialogue of cultural history, referencing language both from antiquity and postmodernity, namely hieroglyphs and corporate logos. His works are about medium as message, and focus vacillates between the image in flat paint and the linen ground, leading the viewer to the immaculate surface.
David Mabb incorporates the language of art history (William Morris and the Futurists) by contrasting Morris’ designs with other forms of modernist production. Linen is Mabb’s vehicle for language, which gives heft and conviction to the message.
Michael Vickers explores the seductive and poetic qualities of form. His work engages in the the art historical dialogue of 1960s minimalism, but the more ancient history provided by the linen base lends new weight and presence to his sculptures, which are at times both fragile and monumental.
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