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Beers London presents Thrush Holmes & Jonathan Lux: Modernist Lunch

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15 July 2016 to 20 Aug 2016
Tues - Fri: 10h00 - 18h00
Sat: 11h00 - 17h00
Preview: Thursday 14 July from 6-9pm
Beers London
1 Baldwin Street
London
EC1V 9NU
United Kingdom
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Artists in this exhibition: Thrush Holmes, Jonathan Lux


Thrush Holmes & Jonathan Lux: Modernist Lunch
Preview 14 July 6-8pm
15 July - 20 August 2016

There is an ironic undertone to the type of nostalgia explored through the works of both Thrush Holmes and Jonathan Lux. Here, one considers two artists with clear artistic perspectives who could, certainly, both be shown as solo exhibitions, yet by placing them side by side we are inevitably led to draw comparisons that may or may not be entirely appropriate.

Both artists operate a brightly-coloured, often humorous and revisionist approach to Modernism. With Holmes, the conventions of the still-life upended and spun on its head; Lux explores a stylistic tradition imbued by narrative. For both, familiar themes are explored in unfamiliar methods: Holmes’ work is irreverently playful, at present, the young Canadian artist reconsiders the traditions of floral painting, drawing upon obvious inspirations like Picasso and Matisse. The loud, unforgiving but ultimately sweet Fantasy Painting most evidently recalls Picasso’s famed 1907 painting Demoiselles d’Avignon in both its fleshy colour-scheme and casually splayed nudes on offer for the viewer. For Picasso, they were prostitutes at a brothel; and here Holmes seems to paraphrase Picasso: his offering almost paraphrasing Picasso, suggesting a nude painting here, a large plant, a intensely decorated ceramic vase, a splash of Modernist light here reimagined as a fluorescent bulb. Like Picasso, Holmes is interested in breaking down forms and exploring ideas. He is paying homage to, while simultaneously subverting, these canonised traditions of Modernist subject matter and technique. As though presenting a singular, bold idea: and so on and so forth. The neon asks us to further consider our relationship to tradition: is the application of neon arbitrary? And can painting be simultaneously silly and well-executed? (The answer of course is yes: from Gary Hume’s recent ‘deconstructed rainbow’ works at White Cube or even George Condo’s ongoing oeuvre of maniacally laughing portraits that poke-fun at traditions of painting and portraiture).

The work of Lux, however, focuses on creating a greater narrative to envelop his body of work. Holmes priorities instant gratification - whereas Lux invites (and hold) your interest, asking you to explore the works at length. As we see his characters and stylistic tendencies we can begin to unravel whatever ongoing meta-narrative he creates. There are nods to Alice in Wonderland, and everything from his subject matter to his paint handling somehow seems like a storybook gone awry. Throughout, the works feature dancing tea-pots, dollops of whipped-cream, anthropomorphised (and smiling!) objects, and more… one painting even exhibits a clinic for edamame beans. Unlike Holmes, who desires and exploits ideas of immediate gratification, Lux is concerned with the ongoings of a world of his creation. Through their suggestion of 1950’s style animation (vintage Coca-Cola or movie theatre adverts) that have somehow been reiterated as sensuous, almost grotesque. But they situate themselves squarely in the current contemporary language of painting: essayist Rose McLaren who wrote for his 2015 show at Marlborough Fine Art likens him to Ryan Mosley or Sigmar Polke, but the similarities do not cease there. He is a ‘painter’s painter’ - a label he clearly deserves as someone with a strong, clear, perspective and the nerve and confidence to pull it all off with such effortlessness.

So while an argument could be made that Holmes prioritises the concept and idea of painting, Lux makes it all about the paintings themselves. Holmes takes a critical distance, offering semiological clues to consider how we learn to understand, critique, and decode a history of painterly images. While Lux talks about these ideas tangentially, a type of codified language of painting all explored within the artworks themselves, layered and stacked, suggestions of figures, shapes, fruits, and foodstuffs peeking through layers of paint. In Holy Mountain, an anonymous host pours tea for the viewer, and Holmes’ floral paintings could be set as the centrepiece. It seems like it is going to be a wild and wonderful lunch, indeed.

***

Thrush Holmes' practice navigates the so-called meta-narratives of artistic practice: grandiose concepts of biography, introspection, and materiality, all whittled down with his own distinctly ironic, colorful perspective. His method is to re-examine while elevating - and simultaneously poking-fun - at the conventions of the 'Still Life'. Through his handling, and a tongue-in-cheek application of fluorescent neon lightbulbs, Holmes raises these objects to a fetishistic status; his signature marked prominently in arbitrary swirls of neon. These are markings of man's territory, it seems, as he metaphorically pisses over the conventions of floral painting with gusto and flair. Bursting with energy, the paintings themselves triumph the physical properties of their materiality: paint drips and splatters become definitive marks on the canvas. For the viewer, such confident mark-making and material combinations suggest an artist at the beginning of a strong career. His work suggests a hybrid-form indebted to older traditions but somehow liberated by new contemporary modes. Holmes’ work can be found in permanent collections such as the Elton John Aids Foundation, Sony, Dreamworks and Def Jam Records.

Jonathan Lux's practice is interested in the contradictory relationship between spontaneous processes and images that evoke nostalgia, fantasy, and narrative. As a viewer, his repertoire of imagery seems like rejected illustrations from some darkly humorous edition of Alice in Wonderland: teapots, Chesire smiles, dancing figures, and even smoking edamame beans populate the canvas. At once cleary defined, his technique also suggests a hard-worn, spontaneous re-approaching of the canvas. We see a palimpsest-like approach, there the artist's decisions are evidenced through layers of opaque paint thereafter covered by transparent shapes. Often beginning as a reorganisation of (memories of) his environment, Lux’s subject matter is constantly ripe for re-evaluation. His mark is purposeful, traceable, like a record of time and place in history. As a result, the paintings reference popular culture, nostalgia and play, just as much as they reference his own process in creating them. As viewers, we are privy to his problem-solving. By combining real and fictional elements, subduing the edginess of the real to the influence of his personal prerogatives the paintings inhabit an uneasy territory somewhere between pleasure and mischief, the uncanny and the altogether bizarre. Beers is thrilled to present the artist's first two-man exhibition after a highly successful solo exhibition with the legendary Marlborough Fine Arts in September 2015. 


Beers London
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