Ecstatic, darkling with lofty, fumble/Reverie, angst, bumble and grumble/Lucid, limned with Rubin’s cornice and fifteen-odd semblable stumps

16 Feb 2019 - 31 Mar 2019

In the front space of the gallery: Ralph de Jongh

Dürst Britt & Mayhew is proud to present Ecstatic, darkling with lofty, fumble/Reverie, angst, bumble and grumble/Lucid, limned with Rubin’s cornice and fifteen-odd semblable stumps, British artist Alex Farrar’s second solo exhibition at the gallery.

With a systemic approach to art making Alex Farrar produces exhibitions that blur the line between artwork and context. He makes groupings of works that explore the bodily as a liminal space between our psychological world and our social lives. Farrar uses a range of sculptural, painting and print making techniques in complex relationships with their forms: often referencing the body and its residues directly, and content: emotional states ranging from longing to optimism, irritation to nervousness. Four distinct series of new works – night sweat paintings, semblable forest, a gestalt cornice and ‘umble prints – coalesce in a scene that combines traces of the lived body with paranoiac visions and pataphysical logic.

Suggesting metopes in a classical frieze, the night sweat paintings form a procession of headless writhing bodies captured on downy bed linens. Following the series of sweat paintings made in 2017 and 2018 (that were debuted at ARCO Madrid), Farrar has found in the more intimate subject of night sweat the body in repose, stressed not by any external presence but an imagined one. For these new works the artist applies a silicone based paint on various textiles commonly used as bed linen. The organic forms depicted are drawn from various acquaintances of the artist who volunteered their silhouetted sleeping positions. With a nod towards the Anthropometry paintings of Yves Klein, they share with Farrar’s previous sweat works a disconcerting materiality that is poised between the abject and the divine.

Semblable forest is a disturbing assembly of young trees felled upon reaching maturity. Made using a variation of the lost wax technique, with found tree stumps surrounded by plaster before they are incinerated, their voids replaced with bronze which is then broken out of the mold. Occupying the floorspace of the booth these modest monuments with trunks the span of your wrist and roots that reach out pointlessly, situate the exhibition space in the midst of an unseen act of destruction.

Taken together these examples reflect the shifting perspective that runs throughout the exhibition’s exploration of lived experience. Across the grouping our perception is mirrored in an exchange between the interior (psychic) life of a body and its exterior (somatic) experience. This is a continuum, a splitting of the flesh that is literally illustrated by the gestalt cornice’s evocation of the faces–vase demonstration of figure–ground perception. Here the (speaking) profile of a face is extruded to ring the perimeter of the presentation with the suggestion that the negative ‘ground’ of the exhibition space is as material as they are.

Much of the contents of the new works can be found in an embryonic state in the ‘umble prints, where a scattershot collection of heads, contorted faces, fingernails, crab shells, snakeskins amass on a backdrop of open textbooks. Printed in bright, bold colours with a risograph duplicator, their individual titles, ‘Jumble’, ‘Fumble’, ‘Stumble’ etc. belie the fragility of their making and the thread of vulnerability, weakness and precarity that runs throughout the presentation.

Alex Farrar (*1986, lives and works in Amsterdam and London) studied at Leeds Metropolitan University (Leeds, UK), Gerrit Rietveld Academie (Amsterdam) and Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten (Amsterdam, NL). Recent and forthcoming solo/duo exhibitions include Bloc Projects, Sheffield (2019), SE8, London (2019), Onomatopee with Philippine Hoegen, Eindhoven (2018), ARCO Madrid with Dürst Britt & Mayhew, Madrid (2018), and de Appel Arts Centre, Amsterdam (2016). He has recently participated in group exhibitions at Copperfield Gallery, London (2018) and The Great Medical Disaster, Manchester (2017). In 2019 he will participate in a group exhibition at ChaSaMa in New York.

In the front space of the gallery Dürst Britt & Mayhew has invited Ralph de Jongh to make a solo presentation, the title of which is ‘The egg has settled’.

Ralph de Jongh’s work immediately touches the viewer’s senses. His objects possess both sculptural and pictorial characteristics and are not easy to categorise. They are very tactile and evoke associations with candy or icing on a cake. The viewer can hardly contain himself from touching the work and some people even confess to wanting to lick it. These reflexes spring from De Jongh’s use of pastel-colour and tactile materials like polystyrene and burlap. His works are characterized by craft, the beauty of small imperfections and the realisation that the material an artist works with also has a will of its own. It is this interplay between controlling the making process and the influence of the unpredictable that typifies De Jongh’s practice.

At first sight De Jongh’s works may come across as abstract. They are nevertheless well connected to the world surrounding us. His most recent works on show at Dürst Britt & Mayhew take their inspiration from images from a canonical French cookbook that was published for the first time in the 1950s.

Attracted mostly by dishes with egg-preparations and banana-desserts, De Jongh has transformed the beautifully arranged plates into abstract colour patterns that evoke associations with galaxies and bird’s eye views. By using oil stick and pastel he manages to give his drawings his typical tactile feeling. The granularity of the oilstick is mirrored in the polystyrene balls in the artist made frames. This way De Jongh cleverly manages to merge the seemingly different media of drawing and sculpture.

Ralph de Jongh (1978, living and working in Haarlem) received his BFA from Artez/AKI in Enschede. He is co-founder of nomadic artist’s initiative Sugarpop Institute and recently had solo presentations at Prospects and Concepts at Art Rotterdam, The Supermarket in Stockholm and Zoete Broodjes in Amsterdam. He participated in group exhibitions at 37PK and Nieuwe Vide in Haarlem, Performance Bar Worm in Rotterdam, Quartair in The Hague and De Oude Kerk in Amsterdam. He was nominated for both DeAanzet! Prize and de Scheffer Prize. Work by De Jongh is held in private and public collections including the Voorlinden Museum, Wassenaar and the Rijnstate Collection, Arnhem.