We are pleased to present ‘Silent Slips’, our second online-only exhibition of COVID-19. The show explores our enduring need for myth and ritual. Curated by Dereck Harris, ‘Silent Slips’ looks at how pre-modern urges find their way into the 21st century, through the work of four contemporary painters: Ben Edge, Fiona Finnegan, Dereck Harris, and John Stark.
‘In the 21st century we are all bombarded with persistent and intrusive imagery, these glimpses enticing and seducing us. Together the works by these four artists look at how beneath this networked consciousness there is still a deep yearning for ritual and myth, an instinctive desire to look for ways of emulating practices of our ancestors.
Edge’s works depicts obscure traditions which are still enacted today; the Burryman of South Queensferry, or the Horn Dancers of Abbots Bromley, where ritualized offerings and participatory struggles (Flaming Tar Barrels of Ottery St Mary, Devon or The Britannia Coco-nut Dancers or Nutters of Bacup, Lancashire) portray meaningful community narratives. Edge composes his imagery into symmetrical tableaux of realist paintwork, displaying the eccentric images as though in a symbolic order befitting a portable religious Icon.
Dereck Harris makes paintings that combine the idea of a pagan drama with an existential ‘theatre of the absurd’. He uses captured YouTube images of choreographer Maurice Bejart’s dance performance of Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’ (1970) which bear out both the demands of rehearsed performance and the beguiling nature of ritual. Air-brush paintings depict solidly modeled figures that hover in apparent suspension, whilst evoking an aura of 1970’s cinematic pool of light, or a bleached-out analogue video. It is a means of documenting timelessness: the depiction of the moment when time and technology slip.
John Stark’s dystopic, post-apocalyptic paintings reference the past to try and understand the future. In this, they are deeply influenced by the history of Western art: the Germanic Gothic, the dark existence before the advent of Reason, the haunting superstitions of the medieval mind which bubbled up in the visions of artists such as Salvator Rosa in his witch paintings or the neo-classical bacchanales of Poussin. On the other hand there is also contemporary kitsch and fantasy painting, suggesting how the pre-modern mentality is so lost to us that it now that it constitutes an ‘Other’. Stark’s paintings travel all these roads at once to explore how the mythical mindset still continues to reassert itself.
Fiona Finnegan paints a kind of everyday uncanny where darkened spaces take on the ghosts of timelessness and become internal landscapes of evocative dramas. Sisters presents a symmetrical cluster of entwined dancers, conspiring to encircle the viewer, as though posessed by the ghost of Richard Dadd’s incantation, a mystical tryst of woodland fairies.’
Text by Dereck Harris.