The gallery is pleased to present ‘Another Country’, an exhibition about the use of the past as an imaginative space. The show features work from Ray Caesar, Olivia Kemp, James Mortimer, Christopher Noulton, and Guillermo Martin Bermejo.
Ray Caesar’s works visualise a vast psychological panorama made up of a blend of personal memory and imagination. His characters act as costumed dolls exploring this diverse terrain: sometimes Rococo, Edwardian or Film Noir, Sci-Fi or Manga. They wander through ice palaces, jungles, and country estates encountering surreal and inexplicable phenomena. Much like a dream, the scenes can be both sweet and horrid, and are coded by experiences lying deep in the artist’s own history. It is a use of the past that explores its surrealistic potential, and its ability to channel hidden parts of the psyche.
Christopher Noulton’s paintings also present an imagined world, but of cryptic scenes like a storyboard from an old film. There is a strong sense of nostalgia, of art deco buildings, milk floats and Modernism, all glimpsed through the incomprehending half-light of memory and childhood. Weaving their way through the images are subtle patterns – evergreen topiary, shamrock motifs, sweeping architectural structures – that suggest a sense of order in a surreal and hidden narrative. In these works, the past represents something of a conundrum, a place where both uncertainty and optimism coexist.
Olivia Kemp’s ink drawings present a visual stream of consciousness on a monumental scale, and explore how memory functions as a network of images. Highly detailed and months in the creation, they take physical locations as their starting point and then sprawl across the paper, linking one memory with another in a cascade of related images. The final drawing is so extensive that it can not be read in one piece, but rather must be followed like a web of visual pathways – a composite labyrinth of the many elements of the past and of the relationships between them.
Guillermo Martin Bermejo’s drawings reference medieval tales of saints in the creation of a very personalised romantic world. Drawn in pencil on pages from second hand notebooks, his scenes use the past as a poetic space, and play out his own life experiences as if they were part of a long-lost legend or a chanson de geste. In some ways reminiscent of Stanley Spencer in their theatrical interpretation of the everyday, his images take place in landscapes that feel both dramatic and parochial. This is the past as a gentle intimate world, full of intense feeling.
James Mortimer’s paintings depict a world seemingly spared from any mythical fall from innocence, where the inhabitants are free to behave as their desires and instincts dictate. They exist with a blissful lack of self-awareness, in a world as simple and as savage as that of the animals that surround them. This anachronistic otherness lends the paintings a curious idealism, on the one hand bucolic and yet also humourously sinister. It is an approach that probes the ideal of an uncomplicated timeless past, and revels in its unintended improprieties.