Mary Mercer wanted to be ‘spellbound’ by the painting at Suspicion. Instead she found some ‘rich and strange’ work which was let down by a boringly conventional hang.
Kate Lyddon, Man Vs Wheel Vs Woman Vs Beast, 2014,
oil, acrylic and collage on canvas, 150x120cm (x2)
The Suspicion show at the Jerwood Space was something that I wanted to see. The title which could have come from the Elvis song but just as satisfyingly comes from the Hitchcock film, had been trailed by some tempting images – shiny marble heads by Damien Meade and weeping Victorian ladies by Simon Linke. It was probably always going to be hard to live up to this expectation.
In reality it is a rather conventional show with a predictable group of participants most of whom fit comfortably into that London painter mid-career niche. The show's actual theme is narrative in painting, both as encapsulated in the single frame of painting and in the painting's relationship to film, as referenced by the show's title. I would suggest that most figurative painting could fit this brief and the work in the show, interesting as some of it is, doesn't really stretch the idea very much.
So onto the work...
The Kate Lyddon diptych is a pretty typical example of her work; voluptuous, nightmarish, cartoon influenced figures in candy colours.
Armed with a little knowledge of Simon Linke's work I assume that the sickly green recreations of Victorian scenes are arch, which makes me, pre-disposed to dislike them. However taken at face value I can't help but like them – thick paint and melodrama – a great combination.
Damian Meade's two paintings are alluring (although I was disappointed that the one pictured in the catalogue wasn't in the show). They are masterfully painted – turning blocks of stone into awkward views of human likenesses. Maybe they are just an exercise in painting, but it is subject matter that always draws me in.
Benjamin Senior's work is on one level quite repulsive. He paints impossibly stretched, sporty women that could feature in a 1970s, inspired by the 1930s, art posters. Except there is always some kind of 'wrong' element, the pert lady in Grey Studio for instance appears to be double headed behind the lollypopped topiary – a trait she shares with Damian Meade's Janus. It is an intriguing narrative work and one that stays in the mind.
Neal Tait's work leaves me cold, I just don't get it. It appears to be referencing cubism and is jagged, ugly and frigid. The bottom line is that I find it boring to look at. Maybe he is just trying too hard?
Geraldine Swayne has two tiny paintings in the show. Painted in enamel they have that alluring shiny celluloid surface like film frames. Jane Doe 1 works particularly well, all subfusc and Lynchian. However both works are famed in ugly cream box frames, which detract from the delicate exquisiteness of the work itself. They are victims of the old style hang of the show, marooned on acres of grey wall.
Darren Marshall's painting Snow 2 is perhaps the most interesting work in the show. Holes have been picked in the delicate bluey grey painted linen, which reveal the darker canvas underneath. The little crescents of paler, turned-back linen become snowflakes, which are shadowed by the dark canvas holes. It is sparse and filmic and suggestive.
As I write this review I find myself becoming more interested in the work, which is of course one of the rewarding aspects of reviewing. That said Suspicion is really a very conventional painting show – mostly large paintings hung on grey gallery walls, spaced to allow room for each to be seen without other work entering the frame of vision. This seems to miss a trick. A more creative hang would have made the show more interesting visually. I would have liked to see more connections with the Suspicion theme and maybe some different kinds of painting, displayed in different ways.
Despite this reservation if you have any interest in painting it is really worth detouring from a visit to Tate Modern to see Suspicion, and as a bonus there is a really good free catalogue with interesting writing by curator Dan Coombs and writer Sean Ashton.
Jerwood Encounters: Suspicion
Curated by Dan Coombs
5 November – 7 December 2014
171 Union Street
London SE1 0LN