Reality Dimmed or just disrupted in new exhibition at Mead Gallery

Eight large paintings dominate the undivided space of the Mead Gallery for a new exhibition by British artist Clare Woods.

Reality Dimmed is the title of the exhibition, and the new series of paintings were apparently inspired by found imagery which the artist collects. The new works are described as being concerned with “vulnerability, mortality and disability”, and the title comes from psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s text Man’s Search for Meaning, in which he wrote about his experience as a prisoner in Auschwitz, which led him to believe in the importance of finding meaning in all types of existence and so a reason to keep living.

If that sounds heavy, then the paintings do not force any explicit brutality on the viewer, but it’s what you don’t see or what they seem to be trying to hide which makes them a bit disturbing.

The eight works are oil on aluminium, with the paint often applied it thick strokes, in big swathes or explosions of colour. The Dementor is the most worrying, with the naked torso of a man shown, the bottom of his face visible, the stripes of his tracksuit bottoms suggesting casualness but the oddly pointing finger at the bottom of the work raising questions. The fact that it’s three metres high adds to its strength.

Smoke and Daggers has what looks like a hand (except it has too many fingers) thrust outwards as if fending off attention of some sort, and what could be a blurry head trying to get away from our gaze.

Something Bigger suggests colourful flowers, and The Last Word looks like a chair obscured by a sheet covering something or someone on top of it. English Murder is an explosive scene of yellow and black paint, and Reality Dimmed may be two plumped up pillows waiting for someone to return to them – or maybe not.

It’s an interesting exhibition which makes you want to return to lose yourself further in the great fields of colour and investigate more.

*The exhibition is on at the Mead Gallery at Warwick Arts Centre, University of Warwick, until March 10.

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