Reality Departure: Angela Smith, Louis Savage & Katrine Roberts, Lacey Contemporary

Reality Departure: Angela Smith, Louis Savage & Katrine Roberts, Lacey Contemporary

The second instalment of Lacey Contemporary’s launch of its gallery artists showcases the work of three young British painters. Reality Departure explores painting’s ability to capture the world as it is mediated by the human mind, in this case by the minds of three aesthetically different but spiritually similar artists.

Angela Smith depicts figures in various arresting poses, but she is not representing acts or events, rather she is attempting to capture the inner, unrepresented emotional core. Here she presents works from her Women and Almost Human series, where the former convey moments of human drama and the latter hybrid creatures. The gloss, enamel and oil of these paintings gives their surfaces an immaculate sheen. The gleaming surface betrays the idea that beneath the surface of every look or gaze there is a simmering secret. Colour and form here appear more like geological formations than painted elements, where expressive nuances emerge from the canvas in virtue of this archaeological approach to painting the psyche.

Louis Savage takes reality to consist of nothing more than the vagaries of human perception. The intricate lattices of brushstrokes simultaneously conceal and reveal images that contain the seeds of ideas which the viewer has to decode by piecing together visual clues salvaged from the complex mass. It is as if Merleau-Ponty’s famous analysis of Cezanne’s doubt has been propelled into the 21st century, where the proliferation of information creates confused perception of many ideas at the same time. It is difficult not to feel overwhelmed by the huge canvases of Ubique 1 (2014) and Ubique 2 (2014), but the less you consciously try to unravel their mystery the more they willingly give up to you.

Katrine Roberts toys with the line between figuration and imagination, traversing metaphysical boundaries. Her paintings tease with a hint of reality and demand an emotional response to something whose beguiling complexity increasingly seems like a fiction. There is a gestural element to these paintings, as lines sweep across the canvas, but it never reaches the point of abandon; Roberts exercises great control over the composition so that figures emerge from constellations of colour. These highly expressive paintings wash over you like a dream, revealing a fragmented world that questions the very limits of painting as a representational exercise. At the core of Roberts’ success is the fact that she is a great draughtsman and a great colourist who understands that boundaries do not divide but ultimately unite, so representation and abstraction in painting become one just as they do in reality.

The three artists presented here have distinct voices, styles and working methods, offering a variety of answers to the question of how painting might conceive reality, but the exhibition’s real virtue is in the similarities therein. They all seem to express some notion of the age-old philosophical problem of the supposed gap between how the world appears and how it really is, and they all do this with a dispassionate attribute towards any distinction between figuration and abstraction.

Reality Departure: Angela Smith, Louis Savage & Katrine Roberts, until 23 December, Lacey Contemporary, 8 Clarendon Cross, W11 4AP, London.

Daniel Barnes

1. Ubique 4 , Louis Savage, Oil on Linen, 190 x160cm. Courtesy of Lacey Contemporary.