Curator Henry Hussey draws on the sense of exile, trepidation and loss in the first Canto of the Inferno, using the idea of the dark wood to bring together a group of artists who have each inhabited such a place in their practice.
Amelia Barratt / Sara Berman / Laura Davis / Johnny Höglund / Dean Melbourne
Curated by Henry Hussey
14 January – 4 February 2017
Preview: Friday 13 January, 6-9pm
Gallery open Friday & Saturday 12-6pm
‘Midway upon the journey of our life,’ writes Dante, ‘I found myself within a forest dark, for the straight forward pathway had been lost.’ In this group show curator Henry Hussey draws on the sense of exile, trepidation and loss in the first Canto of the Inferno, using the idea of the dark wood to bring together a group of artists who have each inhabited such a place in their practice.
Confronting anxieties and fears, both creative and personal, works in this show disrupt, contort and conceal. Layers suffocate and protect, weigh down, yet make free. Once the straightforward pathway has been lost, possibilities are endless. Johnny Höglund’s restricted and constrained human forms, informed by a period of illness, seem to offer no way in; faceless blank figures, removed from nature, offer the viewer as many potential routes as the dark wood. Laura Davis, using textures over bound forms, lends a tangible weight to our insecurities; the visible process of containment, and a straining tension, hinting at what lies beneath.
Whilst the dark wood is fraught with danger, it is also free from convention and constraint. Sara Berman has talked about her transition from designer to fine artist, and how a lack of boundaries and fear of failure can lead to creative paralysis. Depicting the body in a domestic setting, faces again obscured, her work creates a sense of unease. Nothing, even nature – planted in pots and unable to put down roots – is quite permanent. The familiar is rendered as confounding and revealing as the dark wood itself.
Questioning the ordinary leads Amelia Barratt to explore everyday preoccupations in forensic detail. Voicing concerns to alleviate their hold, spaces are transformed as she attempts to navigate her existence with instinctive, raw sketches and projections of inner turmoil.
The fairytale dark forests of Dean Melbourne’s imagination, too, are a site of struggle and confrontation, of risk, and a place to explore fears and desires. On fear of the white canvas, he extolls beginning quickly, and not thinking; setting off on a path, any path perhaps, through the dark wood, where imagination can flourish in the shadows and, like Dante at the end of the Inferno, with perseverance we can find a way to ‘rebehold the stars’.