Off Kilter: An Age of Oil, Dadiani Fine Art’s fifth exhibition, is a group show comprised of abstract, conceptual, figurative, surreal and symbolist paintings.
Pinkietessa, 2012, by David Courts, depicts the London performance artist Pinkietessa™ as a Marie Antoinette- like figure attired in a plunging purple gown, her hands bedecked with jewels and her head shrouded in a veil draped over a golden crown. With her varnished nails placed coquettishly to her lips, her pose brings to mind not so much a Queen but the girls that appear in The Sun newspaper, and the viewer is left to question if they are observing a post-modern riff on the cult of the celebrity or a satire on the notion of glamour.
Meanwhile, Kelly Anne Davitt’s two canvasses resemble saucy seaside postcards. One of these, Melons, 2015, shows a smiling model grasping two of the eponymous fruits to cover her breasts. It appears almost a parody of objectification; the breasts a commodity to be sold, just like the fruit that conceals them. Meanwhile, Emma Woollard’s Dexter, 2013, a vividly realised, closeWup portrait of child, provides an antidote to Davitt’s explicitness, evoking unspoiled innocence and hope.
Two works by William S. Burroughs (1947–1981) date from the late 1980s. In one, Untitled, 1988, a collage with oil paint, what looks like a representation of a devil, replete with diabolic horns and gash mouth, is set against a wire mesh background sprayed with luminous, white spray paint. Helena Pritchard’s Untitled, 2014, and Keith Coventry’s, Avenue des Anglais, 2007, are similarly dark in tone. Pritchard uses oil, pigment and graphite to create a moody monochrome abstraction, while Coventry’s work is a facsimile of Raoul Dufy’s (1887W1953) south of France landscapes from the 1940s, only his are not bursting with colour but rendered in thick, black oil paint.
A surreal note is struck by Upside Down Bride, 2009, one of two paintings in the exhibition by the American artist Robert Hawkins, in which a woman is seen strung up by her legs, her bridal gown upended over her waist and covering her torso, arms and face. The influence of the French Symbolist painter Odilon Redon (1840-1916), among others, is evident in Jennifer Binnie’s painting, Animals Under a Black Moon, 2012, a magical composition drawing from the rich vocabulary of nature and mythology. Ewa Wilczynski’s Crux, 2014, rendered in oil and dragon’s blood resin, depicts a whirling mass of connected figures being drawn into a vortex, a nightmarish work that disturbs and fascinates in equal measure. Finally, Liam Ryan’s painting, Reborn Without Reason; Deadly Depression from Mars, 2013, conjures up a giddy cosmic soup, appearing like a segment from the planet named in its title.
Eleesa Dadiani, the gallery’s director, says: “The only element that unites the 10 featured artists is that they all paint in oil. In bringing together these wildly disparate voices, the presentation celebrates that medium in all its myriad forms, while affirming its enduring potency and capacity to delight and surprise.”