Breese Little are pleased to present Tom de Freston’s fourth solo exhibition with the gallery. Coinciding with the publication of three books connected to his work, this collection of recent large scale canvases are presented at a key moment in de Freston’s career. Forming part of a larger retelling of the mythological story of Orpheus and Eurydice, de Freston creates a mutating underworld as seen by Orpheus, who is lost so completely that he stumbles from his own myth into the Minotaur’s. Ovid’s original version of the story is a few hundred words long, but has since expanded exponentially. De Freston takes this growth to its apocalyptic conclusion, depicting the Underworld as a space in which time and history has collapsed into one building, a space beyond narrative.

The Underworld is pieced together as a realm of staged domestic spaces, with windows and doorways offering openings onto glittering, otherworldly weatherscapes. Each painting is a window onto a room, full of minotaurs, lost voices and monsters. Characteristic motifs from de Freston’s previous painting series recur here, containing the outlandish scenography between dated decor such as chequered stages, solitary light bulbs, hanging disco balls, bare stairs and floorboards.

De Freston draws together narratives of identity and entrapment, revealing the continuing importance of ekphrasis in his work, the exchange between one art form responding to another. In particular, the relationship between poetry and painting through contemporary and historical references. In one triptych of paintings, Francesca Woodman’s photographs are restaged as disappearances of Eurydice. Another canvas borrows from Jon Klassen’s children’s book The Dark, with the addition of a Maurice Sendak ‘Wild Thing’ descending the cellar stairs. The Alexmenos Graffito, the earliest depiction of Christ on the cross, Caravaggio’s St Peter and Titian’s Flaying of Marsyas are echoed in a kaleidoscope of kitsch cruelty. Boats and rafts drift through homes; one carries a lamenting Pasiphae and in another the tragic story of Elsje Christiaens, as depicted by Rembrandt in a late drawing.

Orpheus and The Minotaur coincides with the publication of Figuring Out Figurative Art by Routledge, a collection of essays by 13 contemporary philosophers responding to the work of 10 contemporary painters. Two essays are dedicated to de Freston’s work. The exhibition Private View will also host the London book launch at 7.30 pm, 4 November.

The exhibition is accompanied by a full catalogue of de Freston’s artworks and exhibition history from 2009 – 2014, compiled by Breese Little. Hard copies available at the gallery and online – contact the gallery for details.

The gallery will host the launch of de Freston’s poetic graphic novel The Charnel House, published by Bridgedoor Press, Wednesday 26 November, 6 – 9 pm with a late exhibition view. Hard copies available at the gallery and online – contact the gallery for details.

Tom de Freston (born 1983, UK) lives and works in Oxford. De Freston graduated from Cambridge University (MA Cantab, History of Art) in 2007 and Leeds Metropolitan University (BA Fine Art) in 2005. Selected solo exhibitions include Tom de Freston: The Charnel House, Breese Little, London (2013), Tom de Freston: Paintings After Shakespeare, The Globe, London (2013), The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, Waseda University, Tokyo (2012), On Theatre, Breese Little, London (2012), Shakespeare Paintings, Pallant House, Chichester (2012), The Hatley Residency, The Centre for Recent Drawing, London (2012), On Falling, Breese Little, London (2011), Scavengers: Paintings and Poems in Response to Shakespeare, Cambridge University Shakespeare Conference, Cambridge (2011) and A Brief History of Heroism, Platform 1 Gallery, London (2009). Selected group exhibitions include Medicine Unboxed, Parabola Arts Centre, Cheltenham (2013), Manski, Cohen, de Freston, Breese Little (2013) and WEYA – World Event Young Artists, Nottingham (2012). De Freston’s work is featured in international collections including The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, The Museum of Classical Archaeology, Cambridge University, The Public Catalogue Foundation, London and Christ’s College Chapel, Cambridge University. Tom de Freston is currently the Medicine Unboxed artist in residence. Selected publications include House of the Deaf Man by Andrea Porter and Tom de Freston, Gatehouse Press, 2012 and Scavengers: Paintings and Poems in Response to the Plays of Shakespeare by Tom de Freston and Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Cambridge Shakespeare Conference, 2010.