Josh Lilley is proud to announce De Ramp, British painter Nick Goss’ fourth solo exhibition at the gallery, opening Thursday, October 5, 6–9 pm.
Goss spent the summers of his youth in Zeeland, a low-lying province ribboned by slow rivers and canals in Holland’s far west. It is a meditative place, where man and nature are intertwined, but this relationship is fragile: the soft earth yields to pressure as soon as you step off the road. The region was devastated by the North Sea Flood of 1953 known as De Ramp [‘The Disaster’], and Goss often heard stories from his mother and aunts about the family’s displacement as the waters rose steadily around their childhood home.
Two years ago, while reading JG Ballard’s The Drowned World – written in 1962 about a postapocalyptic flooded London – Goss started making drawings from a book of documentary photographs about De Ramp. A wading horse, the water past his haunches. Elderly women bundled up and clustered close, scurrying somewhere unknown, anxiously. Goss began to incorporate observed details from contemporary London in the compositions, while gradually lifting the water level in the scenes. This new horizon line transformed the city, warping and mirroring its features, slowing down its tempo. The artist’s arrival at this place led to the large-scale paintings now exhibited in De Ramp.
‘What if the very architectures of our lives are abruptly and radically transformed?’, the Ballard scholar Jeannette Baxter wrote of The Drowned World. ‘What if our lives suddenly turned on us, knocking everything we cling to out of joint, as if in a dream or nightmare?’ The paintings of De Ramp transform before the viewer’s eyes. The Barbican Conservatory Centre, a tropical garden inside London’s iconic Brutalist block, becomes a silent Eden, verdant but perhaps too good to be true. A silkscreened pattern derived from a photograph of a security grille outside a Tower Bridge charity shop, printed in tiles across a number of paintings, starts rippling. Metal becomes liquid; molecules rearrange. The lone residential towers sprouting above the floodwaters are tombstones or flowers – memories of life lost or tributes to life beginning again. They are also, simply, the things that the artist sees when he looks out his studio window.
At the heart of a psychological space of crisis, Goss’ compositions freely fuse world history with personal history, daily observations with literary fantasy, and pure pictorial effects with the lessons of centuries of art already made. The images of De Ramp challenge the eye and the mind, but they are navigable, and this matters. From South Asia to the Caribbean and the Southeastern states of the US, it is impossible to process our waterlogged world. The De Ramp works, completed long before the recent wave of warnings from an angry earth, are painting for higher ground.
Nick Goss (b. 1981, Bristol) received an Postgraduate Degree from the Royal Academy, London, in 2009, and a BA from the Slade School of Fine Art in 2006. He has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Josh Lilley, London (2015, 2012, 2010), and Simon Preston Gallery, New York (2016, 2013, 2011). Selected recent group exhibitions include Lin & Lin Gallery, Taipei; Palazzo Capris, Turin; Annet Gelink Gallery, Amsterdam; The Drawing Room, London; and Sammlung Lenikus, Innsbruck. The 2017 collaboration with Phil Goss and the clothing designers Folk resulted in the ‘Goss Brothers’ capsule collection and pop-up exhibition space on Redchurch Street, London.