‘Teraphim’ is an exhibition about the power and emotional importance of the physical artwork, explored through the work of two contemporary artists: Iain Andrews and Carlos Zapata.
Iain Andrews is a painter who explores how the established narratives of art history relate to the chaos of lived experience. Iain works as an art psychotherapist with young people and uses painting to explore the often troubled stories he encounters. His paintings have a richly textured quality emphasizing the physical nature of paint, a tangible material that nonetheless acts as a medium for thought and emotion. The works often reference Faery Tales and Old Masters paintings into which he embeds gestural, chaotic, and sometimes cartoonish markmaking. In this process, historical references serve as a containing structure into which the turbulent reality of imperfect and fractured lives can find material expression. Iain thereby focuses on one of the key functions of art: to help us make sense of the chaos of our own experiences through reference to shared cultural models. In this exhibition, a series of larger paintings, The Prophets, use the image of Jozef Stawinoga, a homeless man from the streets of Wolverhampton where Iain grew up. The vagabond lives out the separation from material things similar to visionaries from the Bible. In Iain’s paintings he seems to emerge from the physical mess of the paint like a golem, in contrast to his other works where the image seems to dissolve amongst the marks. Through these intense and turbid paintings Iain explores how reality and fiction blend in the imagination, and contrasts idealised narratives with imperfect reality to suggest how art can help to find a sense of balance somewhere in between.
Carlos Zapata is an artist whose sculptures echo the devotional object as a means of addressing challenging contemporary themes. Originally from Colombia, his works are rooted in the complex issues of his native country, in particular the social conflict that is the legacy of colonialism and an identity shaped by a European culture grafted onto a subjugated host. Many of his sculptures are reminiscent of Catholic icons but simmer with a raw, elemental quality as if to emphasize how religious narratives are but one possible articulation for fundamental human experience. A torso echoing an arrow-riddled St Sebastian suggests gunshot wounds in an allusion to the violence that has plagued Colombia for decades. A haunting carved head and shoulders with a coin in its mouth refers to Charon’s Obol, the payment to the ferryman to take the dead across the River Styx. A Mary Magdalen with waist-long hair echoes the Western tradition but with hints of gold underneath suggesting the cultural syncretism that is so particular to south and central America. Accompanying busts are rough-hewn, burnt, or scratched, their patina suggestive of a life lived through conflict, but Carlos’s work is distinguished by the gentle empathy with which he addresses his subjects. His use of wood is important: it emphasizes the shared organic nature of both his materials and his subjects, and in so doing lends his work an emotional candour that brings a tenderness to his often difficult themes.
‘Teraphim’ opens on Thursday 13 January, 6:30 – 8:30pm. Please register for the PDF preview catalogue via the link above.