Night Shift, British artist Vicky Wright’s fourth solo exhibition at the gallery. The exhibition comprises a sequence of portraits in oil and gesso on linen, and a wall composition of paper sculptures and drawings.
The show takes its title from the mobile-phone setting that changes the frequency of light emitted by LED screens to prevent the disruption of sleep cycles. Spurred by the way that this innocuous software represents the creeping technological colonisation of the human body, Wright turns to face the histories of capital’s dominance over private time.
Night Shift’s subject and protagonist is the artist’s grandmother, a war widow who took to work as a weaver in a mill. By night she turned her labour into creation, approximating Dior and Molyneux dress designs in paper patterns on a mannequin in her kitchen. Dressmaking was a way for this woman to connect with illusory and remote visions, a place where she could channel loss and yearning through projections of beauty and hope. The mannequin became the self’s double, an alter-ego and a ghost, all in one.
Wright constructs her portraits in historically gendered painting languages. In the Night Shift works, Cubism’s hard, analytical rendering of space becomes a contested site of innuendo, where masculine aesthetics of control excite and destabilize, and a dazed misogyny of Symbolism enjoys lush eroticism, with women emerging from spectral miasma.
Wright’s private, coded labour—a night shift the artist shares with a sorority of ancestors—allows new female figures to grow out of histories in which they were silenced. Alive but spliced with both dreams and deadening indignities of the past, Wright arrives at an antique or calcified Pop: energising and present, but unsettled.