Henrijs Preiss

6 April to 29 April 2005


A Latvian of Russian descent, Henrijs has lived and worked in London since 2000. In Autumn 2004 he undertook a 3-month artist residency at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Nebraska, USA. Having worked for years on paintings steeped in techniques drawn from Russian religious icon painting, exposure to America, the land of Modern Abstraction, was bound to yield interesting results. It is these works that form the Sesame show.

There are a number of important themes that underpin Henrijs’ work. His training as a stage designer frequently shines through in his dramatic compositions, complementing the geometrical mechanisms that bind the paintings together. The physicality of the works, painted on wood and wrapping around all surfaces, enhances their allusions to iconic objects, precious and tangible. Other iconographical influences include the red, gold and black colour palette, and an inventive use of reverse perspective – a centuries-old means of representing space that is distinctly different from the linear perspective prevalent in Western figurative art.

These culminate in the feeling of age the works have. Combined with his contemporary abstract painting style, it makes them sit in a special space, somewhere between ancient and modern. Distressed surfaces, symbolism that touches on archetypal cultural motifs, and the use of techniques for creating non-realist pictures which date from well before Modern abstract painting was ever “invented”, all help to situate Henrijs’ works in a tradition of abstraction that extends over centuries. Contemporary abstracts they may be – but historically, they are uncommonly well informed.