If the reader can forgive the somewhat oblique titular reference to Corinthians, it was precisely this phrase that came into my mind as I descended the staircase on exiting the studio of one Will Teather. Having been surrounded in situ by stacks of colour, paint, drawings, diagrams, easels, palettes and strangely orbiting spherical ‘canvases’, I came away with the abiding sensation that I had just been teleported into and out of a place of magic and illusion. In retrospect - a month on, I don’t think that this was a mistaken imprint. Will Teather’s output is extraordinary in the truest sense of the word; one is immediately struck by the artist’s ability to simultaneously deliver displays of rare and serious painterly virtuosity, leavened by charming and occasionally mischievous stylistic playfulness.
To capture or try to encapsulate the detail of the gamut of his work in a text as brief as this is entirely impossible, so I won’t even attempt it, but there are some salient points I think it important to spend a moment mulling over, clues gleaned from the exhibits as common denominators at least, or maybe more honestly as recurring emotional themes.
Beyond the physical formats of the work, whether these be large canvases, small panels or suspended globes, the abiding sense is that Teather is a restless spirit, sorting through painterly vehicles as though searching for carriers appropriate to the often haunting visions.
He projects pictures of scale, style and surface onto likely and unlikely substrate, often setting up fascinating contradictions between image, subject and object. References range from the appropriately bizarre eclecticism of the Paston Treasure, through to disembodied, lime-lighted performers, despotic monarchs and then incessantly onto the exquisite re-renderings of great masters.
Deserved applause to one side, I have also found myself discomfited and placed in some surprising predicaments by Teather’s work over the years; much like the rusty cyclist who hasn’t ridden lately, it often takes me some moments to re-awaken the intellectual muscle required to decode the symbolism of his complex modern allegories. For me though this is also a positive, the artist catches us off-guard, exploiting our susceptibility to the allegorical as a neglected vernacular – a vernacular that we as audiences are increasingly ill-prepared for.
There are so many highlights in the work, both literal and metaphorical, that it seems a little petty to single out any particular format, but for me, the recent re-visions of great master portraits and self-portraits are simply exceptional. Squinting, we discern Rembrandt van Rijn, stirred if not shaken by the combined filtration of digital and analogue processing. Other recognisable classics, rendered impressionistic in lozenges of carefully nuanced hues, we recognize but are not specifically cognisant.
One of my favourite films of all time is Jarman’s Caravaggio and there is something of the same latent, luscious disquiet in Teather’s chiaroscuro that brings the cinematographic, theatrical and the painterly together absolutely seamlessly. Feast your eyes.