Friday, 16 April 2010

Nicholas Jolly exhibition: ' The Age of Anxiety'

Last night I tripped off with Torquil Arbuthnot and Katie Chutzpah amongst others to Mayfair for the preview of Nicholas Jolly’s exhibition ‘The Age of Anxiety’ at the Sarah Myerscough Gallery in Brook Mews, just behind Claridges.

The gallery is a square cube of white, something friends have heard me rail against in the past, but for once I thought the bare blistering white made this artist’s work sing. As you can guess from that comment they are colourful, there is also a measured élan to Jolly’s work, an element of bravura. Personally I felt the adaptation of surrealism and its traditional motifs such as birdmen and Ernst-like collage was cheerfully being subverted. Mind you who knows what an artist’s intentions are? (I have put a link to an interview with Jolly at the end of this post) As a person very fond of Edward Burra (birdpeople!) and as an (ex) art historian I do like to see a painter take a genre and give it a good old rattle.

'A Message from Our Leader.'2008 copyright Nicholas Jolly

Quite apart from this, anyone who knows me will now how much I enjoy a bit of vintageretrophilia, and the sources of Jolly’s imagery are to be found in the magazines and advertisements of the early-mid 20th century that I enjoy.

'Early Warning Device'2007 copyright Nicholas Jolly

Alongside the inevitable banal conceptualism still promoted by many galleries there has been a turn to the macabre powered by celebrity artists such as the Chapman bros and Hirst. Someone at the view suggested that Jolly is somewhat in that vein. I don’t think so, to start with there is a wit lacking in Hirst and his ilk's work and Jolly’s paintings, with their familiar and sometimes cozy looking motifs seem designed to draw the viewer in rather than make them recoil. There is no doubt that the compositions might make the viewer uncomfortable, particularly those involving infants and seemingly monstrous bacterium. But these are representations of harmless, everyday organisms such as pollen that we rub along with quite happily most of the time.

The exhibition is on until the 8th of May and I would strongly recommend that people pop in and have a look. And buy a painting, I would if I could.

I had to include this portrait of the artist because he is such a dapper chap!

Interview with the artist here:

Gallery details here:


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