Three Corner Field
14 October – 13 November 2021
Josh Lilley is proud to present Three Corner Field, an exhibition of new paintings by British painter Ryan Mosley. It is the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.
Over the past 15 years, Mosley has become well known for paintings that call freely to thousands of years of art-historical characterisation, from Greek antiquity to Flemish court painting, Commedia dell’arte and Victorian Aestheticism. Clowns, camels and dandys commingle on the artist’s canvases, and signs mutate as they repeat. In 4th-century Hellenic statuary a lady’s hair scraped up and back into an ovoid bun meant we were looking at Persephone; here she’s a dancer keeping strands from her face, or an actress casually showcasing her cheekbones, or an old maid who can’t make the effort. Mosley puts formal elements in all states of being, keeping all combinations alive.
The three corner field, Mosley explains, was the final option of the artist’s youth. It was the place kids went when the other fields were full. The field’s fourth corner had softened into overgrown brush. No ball game could fairly be played on the three corner field, so it became a space for provisional activities, the ones without rules. Cigarettes and alcohol, myths and treehouses and trash. The three corner field was a liminal place, an inbetween of chaos and order, or childhood and adulthood. A place where one could empty one’s head in order to fill it again.
In both narrative and form, Ryan Mosley has long treated his canvases as a three corner field, a place with boundaries but porous, provisional decorum. Stories shred their focal points and surrender their narrative thrusts. Elements operate independently of each other, sticking together then repelling, like magnets. Balance is important until it disintegrates spectacularly. Depictions of stages add a layer of narrative static, confounding one’s understanding of the roles being played. A Nag Heads In is a three-way conversation, but one of the protagonists is a horse, so it’s impossible to settle upon what they’re getting at. House Music becomes a thought bubble, perhaps the furry ending of a dream, as the edges pucker and cave in around the troubadour who has just finished singing his life. Ballad of the Lonely is a chaotic take on a Peaceable Kingdom-style menagerie, with the animals refusing to cooperate and pose tidily because they have free will. The lonely central figure is left with his lyre.
If he’s Orpheus, he’s a thwarted Orpheus, because he can’t quite make the animals listen. This makes him the artist too. Mosley describes Orpheus’ journey out of the underworld as a “game of trust”, and the same can be said of the paintings of Three Corner Field. Populate a stage, and trust many stories to be told.
Ryan Mosley (b. 1980, Chesterfield, UK) received his MFA from the Royal College of Art, London, in 2007. Recent institutional exhibitions include Radical Figures: Painting in the New Millennium at the Whitechapel Gallery and Everyday Heroes at the Southbank Centre, London, 2020. The artist has presented solo exhibitions at Alison Jacques, London; Tim Van Laere, Antwerp; and EIGEN + ART, Berlin and Leipzig. Mosley lives and works in Sheffield, UK.