Over time, things get lost, and not just physical objects. With the amount of digital noise we plough through every day, retaining anything becomes an ever more challenging task. Yet there is a lot to be said for not letting things go, and for claiming back what we thought had outlasted its use. To explore how this influences contemporary artists, we are pleased to present Lost & Found, an exhibition of painting looking at rediscovery, recycling, and reconnection with lost materials and ideas.
David Le Fleming recycles found objects into the surfaces for his paintings. Frequently his portraits are painted onto items such as car bonnets or sections of boats as a way of showing how manufactured, impersonal objects become over time a very personal expression of an individual’s identity. He even takes this idea of individual coding right down into the mark-making, where each portrait will have its own unique graphic motifs that makes them subtly individualised at an almost microcosmic level. It is as if, in the anonymus object, there is something deeply unique and personal.
For Matthew Small, it is not just his surfaces but also his subjects that are found. He films young people around the estates of North London and then finds his materials – washing machines, combi boilers – abandoned in the same place. Everything shares the same background: it has been overlooked or discarded by society. Whilst known principally as a painter, in Lost & Found Small will exhibit recent sculptural works where he cuts these surfaces apart and uses them to create three dimensional portraits, reminiscent of El Anatui but with a focus on young Londoners today.
In Jon Doran’s paintings, the idea of attempting to find a sense of certainty is articulated through immersion in forests, the archetypal environment for both disorientation and discovery. Doran carries a sense of ambiguity right through to his use of the paint, which is fragmented like sunlight broken up by the forest canopy. Scenes are suggested and distorted, making his works hover between the certainty of a representation and the fluidity of paintmarks on panel. It is a way of using painting as a kind of quest in itself, exploring an in-between space where things are lost, found, and held onto.
Jon Braley also explores the forest as a place where the mystery of old narratives still lives on. In his carved paintings he takes images from our vast shared store of mythology and reworks them in incongruous combinations. Saint Sebastian appears in an English oak forest, wearing a mask reminiscent of the King of the Wood that prompted Frazer’s The Golden Bough; a young child appears in a wilderness accompanied by a caribou like an ancient spirit guide. Braley uses his almost shamanic approach to image-making as an attempt to tap into cultural patterns that are so old we barely even have a name for them.