Paintings can be powerful things. As a medium, painting has held privileged status for centuries as the collector’s object par excellence, and has somehow survived countless attempts to debunk and deconstruct its privileged position. So what is it about painting that makes it so special? What does painting do that other media can’t?
For our inaugural exhibition, the James Freeman Gallery is pleased to present “Depth Charge”, an exhibition of works by Henrijs Preiss and Yuko Nasu, two London-based artists who make a point of probing the depths of painting’s powers from very different perspectives. Henrijs Preiss will also be showing concurrently at the Saatchi Gallery as part of the Newspeak: British Art Now exhibition – Yuko exhibited at the Saatchi earlier in the year as part of the Franks Suss collection.
Both artists use their painting to explore how images affect and influence us. Yuko Nasu does this through remembered portraits, often based on images from the media relating to stories that affected her. One portrait is of Raoul Moat as a cute young child, a baby-faced tabloid image whose tragic contrast to the adult’s reality resonated with the artist. In translating the memory to painting, the fractured innocence of the child and the sad portent of the man become bound together in her sweeping gestural marks. The same applies to other tragic figures from the papers, such as Baby P and an anonymous solider killed in Afghanistan. Through recreating and remembering these images in her painting, Yuko looks to tap into the raw emotions that we come to associate with a powerful image, and how we appropriate images in very personal ways.
Henrijs Preiss explores a different aspect of painted imagery, approaching it from a structural perspective. By scouring art history to identify the most basic components of visual language, Henrijs has built up a library of archetypal motifs, symbols and compositions that are common to all human artistic practice, regardless of regional differences. These he embeds into complex, multi-layered mandalas that tap into our most basic visual instincts. The works seem both familiar and foreign; their aged and worn surfaces hint at the historical continuity they represent; and their almost religious feel echoes how art and visual communication have always held a position of primary importance for all societies. Henrijs’ paintings are like looking into the hidden mechanics of the machine – complex, fascinating, and overwhelming in their ambition.