For our first physical show at the gallery after lockdown, we are pleased to present a solo exhibition for the British painter Sikelela Owen. The show presents a group of Sikelela's most recent paintings following her residency at the British School at Rome.
Sikelela Owen paints the people that give her a sense of belonging, ranging from family and friends to other Londoners in her community. It is a human landscape, the kind that is reproduced endlessly online to the point that such images start to lose their value. In this era of digital excess, Sikelela uses painting to capture something that is more meaningful and lasting, and to lend a sense of substance to the imagery of others.
Sikelela paints her portraits in a loose and gestural style that hides subtle allusions to the history of art. This new series is influenced by her recent fellowship at the British School at Rome. Her subjects appear in the open air, lying beneath a crystalline sky or relaxing in a garden, reminiscent of Manet’s plein-air family paintings but with a contrasting light indebted to Caravaggio. Reclining figures also echo the classical statuary that populates Rome, painted in running drips to suggest ruins and permanence over time. Sikelela brings many influences into her work with a disarming candour, adapting deep art-historical knowledge to the representation of everyday people. In the process she imbues them with warmth and empathy.
In the smaller works, reclining figures become close-cropped sleeping faces, where a deft use of paint captures the intimacy of an unguarded moment. The small works also depict children, symbolic of gentle innocence and a freedom that is so quickly lost. Some are girls dressed as ballerinas, echoing Degas but with a kinder eye. Others are boys in crisp white shirts as if dressed for a special Sunday, or young girls cradling baby siblings in their lap. All have the air of an album of family memories; the specific stories may be hidden, but the sense of emotional attachment is palpable nonetheless. Viewed together, the paintings explore how the relationships within which we exist come to define a sense of self.
To register for the preview PDF catalogue please email us via the 'Request PDF Catalogue' link above.
OPENING RECEPTION DETAILS
This is our first opening reception post-lockdown and inevitably it will be different to before. We aim to hold an enjoyable event to launch Sikelela’s show, whilst also ensuring it is safe for everyone and adheres to safety guidelines. The plan is as follows:
• We will be holding the opening from 5:30pm – 8:30pm. During this time, a maximum of two people will be allowed into the gallery at any one time.
• Whilst inside the gallery we will insist on 2m social distance, and as the gallery is quite an enclosed space, we prefer that you wear a face covering.
• Initially each visit will be allowed up to ten minutes for viewing if there are others waiting to come in. If no-one else is waiting, then the time is flexible. If there are others waiting, you may go outside for a time and then come back in again later.
• We will be serving drinks in disposable single-use glasses throughout the opening for those of you who are either waiting outside to enter, or wish to socialise outside in the open air at appropriate social distance.
• We would ask that you keep a safe distance from others whilst at the opening. With good weather and conscientious behaviour, we plan for it to be both a safe and enjoyable event.