13 October – 8 November 2010
Josh Lilley is delighted to announce the opening of the debut solo exhibition at the gallery by London-based painter Vicky Wright.
In a continuation from the Extraction and Guardian series, which focused primarily on the paradoxical nature of portraiture, politics and patronage, The Informants develops Wright's fascination with painting structures and supports, and how a work is contained or framed within existing historical dialogues. The exhibition contains groups of paintings with seemingly clashing reference points and techniques — exploring conceptual slippage and possible malfunction, while at the same time representing discursive worlds of a personal history — becoming metaphysical marks and residue that guide her practice.
The genesis of The Informants is a medieval illustration based on the Edda, a 12th-century Icelandic mythic poem that was offered to younger writers as a textbook on how to praise kings. The illustration depicts a monarch with a corrupted body, invaded by two parasitical spies. In her triptych Caput Mortuum, these infiltrators tell treacherous tales to betray the host body in a battle for control, seen through the emission of a coded white substance representing internal workings or secretive information. Inspired by this medieval story, Wright's painting aims to question and tease the viewer with Escher-like illusions of space, and trompe l'oeil deceptions in paint. These individual marks, which resist synthesis into the whole, create a metaphor for the veiling of power and corruption; where the 'worthless remains' (Latin translation for Caput Mortuum) become excluded objects of a history that speaks only of those with privilege and property.
Consumed with humanity's ongoing abuse of power, Wright has also continued her Guardians series in order to present a group of paintings preoccupied with the human condition. Taking on the double role of both aristocratic perpetrators and working class heroes from a system that was inevitably crushed and destroyed, these players are employed specifically by Wright to explore the masking used to disguise such structures within society, imposed upon people by state regimes and other economic apparatus. The works imply a sense of momentary disorder by taking the shape of abject bodies, or as Mikhail Bahktin spoke of in his writings on the French Renaissance writer Rabelais, "body grotesque". In this respect the Guardians can be seen as inverted portraits, or the silhouetted heads of such families as Tate or De Beers, merchants who made their wealth from the extraction of natural resources. Heavily influenced by her family's experience of the coal mining tradition of North West England and its politically engineered demise, Wright has chosen to focus on the human cost aligned to the demand and market for traditional 18th- or 19th-century British portraiture. While these peeled heads and concealed forms can in some ways be seen as an instinctive reproach towards these fortunate patrons, Wright nevertheless internalises this dark history and uses it to help inform her mark-making and approach to composition. Through executing her painting on the backs of the panels, and hanging what was intended to be their fronts against the wall, Wright works in an intuitive and unrehearsed manner. Marks are made on a structural level, until a personality comes out and an image is grasped and conceived.
The final piece in the show, PSYOPS, is painted in a much looser style than some of the other works, due to its propagandistic function. A large painting on an art-packing crate, found discarded after delivering its contents, PSYOPS takes its name from the military strategy of broadcasting psychological messages in enemy terrain. This corrupted information is used to pacify and control its receivers, a form of contamination that as an object can be seen as a vessel for exporting ideology. What is being hidden here? What is being venerated?
Faced with the wholesale corruption of information, how can we still communicate? Wright partially attempts to answer this through the placement in the corners of the gallery,of pairs of coefficient works hung facing each other, thus communicating across both real and implied space. Here, from the margins, the paintings remind us of premodern relations of matter and form: the alchemy that reformed matter into liquids and gases with metaphysical properties. Against the fixity of power, the paintings insist on fluidity. Helpless and abject, they somehow find the strength for a subversive gesture: they turn away from us, towards the wall.
Vicky Wright (b. Bolton, UK) lives and works in London. Wright graduated with a Masters in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, London in 2008. Previous solo exhibitions include COMMA 14, Bloomberg SPACE, London, 2009. Recent group exhibitions include John Moores Painting Prize, Liverpool, 2008 and Jerwood Painting Prize, London, 2007.