The mind is a jungle. Kurtz knew it; most artists do too. Set off in exploration, and very soon you find yourself consumed by the penumbra, scrambling about to find something familiar to cling onto. Trying to get to grips with such an environment is no small task, and in Diamond Bullet we are pleased to bring together three British artists who use their painting to step up to that challenge: Simon Burton, Orlanda Broom, and Irene Godfrey.
Simon Burton’s figures appear like visions in an unexpected clearing. Mysterious and ancient, they have the air of memories we once knew for fact, but which have long since passed into personal myth. They are heavily layered both physically and with art historical references, recombined till their sources become foggy and obscure. The paintings develop a patina all of their own, as if in the uncertain act of creation he has returned time and again to the safety of familiar ideas, wearing them down and changing their shape through an excess of care in the process. For Simon, the act of both creating and viewing paintings is like a search for something close to meaning. His paintings are moments from this epic ongoing odyssey.
Orlanda Broom’s works tap the excitable aspects of the imagination, through hyper-charged landscapes that are lush and verdant. Her invented plants, like her glowing vistas, are how the tropics might have been imagined from the descriptions of returning sailors in centuries past. On the one hand, there is an unashamed intensity, where exoticism has become translated into billowing fairytale fronds. On the other, there is something distinctly fatalistic about them: these ideas, once taken root, go on to grow out of all control. Sealed in a final shiny layer like the sticky secretions of the unknown flora, Orlanda’s works create a painterly equivalent of the siren: the lure of the beautiful idea that consumes all those it captures.
Irene Godfrey’s compact monochrome paintings come in stark contrast but are no less powerful. She too plays with orientalism and the stylistic movements from the past, but as a means of breaking apart any sense of certainty, to the extent that even at a small scale, her paintings are an exercise in spatial disorientation. Bucolic historical landscapes are twisted and fragmented, cut open with painterly paths that make up down and east west. Blue-and-white Delftware patternings turn crazed and wax hysterical. Irene uses her mark-making to put all safe ideas under scrutiny. In the process she prises her way into the fragility of both memory and of any cosy assumptions about the natural world we live in. Both, in Irene’s work, break down under interrogation.