James Freeman Gallery is pleased to present a series of new paintings by the British artist Sikelela Owen, in an exhibition that looks at how the imagery and motifs from art history give shape to a painter’s visual memory.
Sikelela’s paints the things that are closest to her: her family, friends, and relationships. The images she works with have endured as memories, to the extent that they are more than just a depiction of a moment in time. They represent an emotional echo given visual form. This sense of the intangible past is carried through in the way Sikelela paints. Her brushwork, on the one hand expressive and gestural, is also laid down in light glazes as if layering one haze of memory over another. Detail is only what is strictly necessary: everything superfluous is omitted, or lost. What results are paintings that tap into the loss of a precious moment, and the sense of meaning that such ephemeral things can engender within us.
Within this, Sikelela’s paintings also suggest how the history of painting can influence a painter’s visual memory. Velazquez’s ‘Portrait of Sebastian de Morra’ lies beneath an image of the artist’s aunt; a female motif from Manet’s ‘The Balcony’ find its way into images of girls in suburban London gardens. Sikelela’s use of blocks of colour that interlock on the canvas also echoes how Hurvin Anderson’s paintings slip between place and pattern. It shows how, through a painter’s eye, the canon of art history can be transformed into a very personal visual vocabulary.
Sikelela Owen (1984, London) studied Painting at Chelsea College (2009) and then Fine Art at the Royal Academy Schools, graduating in 2012. Recent solo exhibitions include ‘Love, Eat, Sleep, Repeat’ at HSBC Canada Place in London and ‘People Every Day’ at NAM Project in Milan. In 2014 her work was included in ‘100 Painters of Tomorrow’ at Beers Gallery and in the Thames & Hudson Publication. She has recently been awarded the Elephant Lab residency at the newly launched Elephant Space in 2019.