‘I believe that in contemporary figurative painting the paint is not simply there to be crafted to serve the image, but must make itself felt in a robust and separate way’ (Georgia Hayes 2003). Paul Stolper Gallery is proud to present the paintings of ‘Susie Hamilton/Georgia Hayes/Mit Senoj’, three very different artists who use the language of paint to depict the figure. Whilst their work is figurative in the literal sense, what contrasts them is the manner in which each artist roots the figure to the landscape, be it real or imaginary.
Susie Hamilton makes small, spontaneous drawings and watercolours while abroad, which are then are worked and re-worked back in the studio, honing in on particular characters, colours and compositions. Georgia Hayes similarly makes her initial drawings by observing real people and places. The sketches become the arena which she can then manipulate and add to, rendering the real somewhat surreal. Mit Senoj also works from real life, drawing and painting models, though not in the traditional studio setting but through the internet where life models pose for him.
Susie Hamilton presents oil on canvas paintings from three bodies of work; ‘Morocco’, ‘Malls’ and ‘New Forest’. Her most recent series, ‘Morocco’ depicts life in Marrakech. As with her other series, the emphasis in on the figure in wilderness; this can be literal as with the ‘New Forest’, or like with the ‘Malls’, metaphorical (the superstore) but the artist uses both as an area for transformation, where the figure becomes abstracted, mutating and tipping into the unfamiliar. The artist concentrates on shape, and with thin veils of oil paint, she combines solid forms in a quick and spontaneous way. There is a figurative presence but Hamilton’s shapes are not obvious and they border on the abstract. In ‘Morocco’ solitary figures, depicted in raking light, are demolished, transfigured and exposed. Set in these extremes of glare and shadow, the figures are unprotected; they are wandering, outcast or poor. In ‘Wayfarer’ 2014, the subject’s dark shadow is like a sundial, fixing and limiting the figure in time and space. Set against the sparse background, the emptiness against which the figure is standing seems to suggest a type of pilgrim – burdened, perplexed and struggling against vast spaces of desert or wilderness.
Georgia Hayes’ vibrant canvases depict figures in narrative spaces. Birds and animals wander into the image, ‘flattened and displayed against a candy box of colours for our viewing pleasure’ (Cathy Lomax, 2013). Often her canvases appear re-worked, paint is scraped away, leaving a shadow of a former figure or object. What is clear is that the ‘paint itself is an intense presence’ (Monroe Hodder, 2003). The artist disassociates objects from their normal surroundings, her images are ‘destabilised and left to float away from fixed references or association’ (Sacha Craddock, Pynto 2002). By doing so, her paintings teach us to see objects as having significance in themselves. In ‘Learning in the Museum’ 2011 two figures, an Egyptian and Jane Mansfield, lean over an abstracted display case to examine the contents. A carved ivory monkey and colourful reptile figurines are enlarged and in this way, these small items, which might have otherwise been overlooked are given a significant place in the image. “I paint things that have had a visual or emotional impact. Friends, animals or objects in museums are on-going interests; subjects which when mixed with other things seem to reveal new, unexpected ideas.” (Georgia Hayes 2014)
Mit Senoj’s solitary female figures appear trapped and suspended within the landscape. His ink and watercolour paintings depict female figures that melt into nature, forming images of intense beauty that are neither figurative nor abstract. Flora, fauna and figure become intertwined; ‘they are sexual, but with a scientific observational distance’ (J. Hendrickson, Art in Print, 2012). To emphasize the sharp, thorny nature of the plant life or the often clawing and grotesque nature of the insects, Senoj physically cuts and slashes the paper, and then like sap from a tree, he coats the finished images in a varnish. Evocative of both designs by William Morris and the seductive lines of Egon Scheile, Senoj’s work points to both conflict between man and nature and the uneasy relationship between the two. Whereas these ink and watercolour paintings are based in fantasy and executed with meticulous detail, Senoj’s new larger paintings in both watercolour and oil depict wraith like female figures in explicit poses. They are twisted and suggestive, red paint drips down the image, these works are at once seductive, violent and visceral. This series of work has an urgency and energy, the sexual poses of the figures make the viewer a witness to a naked body, while recalling the tradition of life painting. ‘My practice is concerned with our physiological self and the psychological response to our inner science. The distortion of the natural law of forms, into the unimaginable’ (Mit Senoj, 2014).
Susie Hamilton studied painting at St Martin's School of Art, and Byam Shaw School of Art and studied English Literature at Birkbeck College, London University. Her work is in numerous public and private collections including Murderme UK, Deutsche Bank, The Economist, THS Partners, Bernard Jacobson Collection, The Groucho Club and The Methodist Art Collection. She lives and works in East London.
Georgia Hayes was born in 1946 in Aberdeenshire, Scotland and currently lives in East Sussex. From 1977-82 she was a student of Roy Oxlade. Her group exhibitions include East & South (1992), John Moores 18, Oriel Mostyn (1993), Harlech International (1994), John Moores 25 (2008). Solo exhibitions include SFMOMA Artists Gallery, San Francisco (2002), Café Gallery Projects, London (2003) and Galeria Nacional, Costa Rica (2006).
Mit Senoj has a MA from Manchester Metropolitan University. Senoj is the winner of the prestigious Jerwood Drawing Prize 2009, the UK’s leading award in drawing. Senoj has previously exhibited at Castlefield Gallery, Cornerhouse and Paul Stolper Gallery. His work is held in private collections across the UK and internationally.