Phantoms
Curated by Julian Brown and Claude Vergez

Julian Brown, Nick Fox, Robert Holyhead, Paula Kane, Ana Prada, Miho Sato, Neal Tait, Claude Temin-Vergez

Private View: Friday 11 May, 6-9pm
Exhibition Continues: 12 May – 3 June
Friday to Sunday 12-6pm, or by appointment


According to the art critic Jan Verwoert, artists in their studio are like Joan of Arc hearing voices and drawn to higher callings. This show is looking at the work of a group of artists whose practice is inhabited and fed by history, the presence of their heroes, peers and other monuments of the Art Pantheon. These ‘phantoms’ are particularly present within a painting context where the weight of tradition is overbearing.

Sometimes consciously invited, sometimes fortuitous or accidental these presences in the studio provide fruitful discussions that reflect a problematic at work. The work exhibited here is not the expression of a movement or genre but rather a selection by a common sensitivity. The show should reflect its varieties and likeness, harmony and accidents. It will provide a meeting of artistic strategies and instigate dialogue.

Neal Tait's work makes us glimpse into a strange world of narratives. His images seem to generate in front of our eye; looking at Tait’s work we are aware of the way they are made as well as their narrative in equal measure. The painterly qualities of his images provide open-ended possibilities within the picture plane where the presences at play seem to act scenes of a common human experience.

Claude Vergez’s work implies doubling, or twinned forms, where the surface operates as both an articulated field which mirrors itself in various form of symmetries, and a place where individual refined traceries can be both lost and unravelled in the process of looking. Vergez develops forms that traverse identifications: from sexual connotation, through Baroque ornament, to formations of nature. Both the surface and image are, in this sense, metamorphic in their nature with forms constructed from a linearity that traces a force across the canvases.

Miho Sato’s works talks to us in a way that is at once familiar and foreign. Her images are constructed from popular images and somehow filtered through her personal lens that gives them qualities akin to the great tradition of painting as well as an immediacy as ease with today’s visual landscape.

Ana Prada’s work is deceptive. Playing on notions of symmetry and formal arrangement, a double reading operates when one is confronted by it close up. Familiar objects are perverted and coerced into behaving against their nature. The effect is all the more shocking that our mind can’t put together their function (once discovered) and what it is seeing. The result is gripping our imagination by creating a ‘3rd place’ for this strange proposition between function and fantasy.

Paula Kane makes imaginary fantastical landscape paintings. Devoid of human presence her landscape are an invitation to wander and explore an age-old genre giving it a fresh twist. On closer inspection one becomes aware of their construction. Borrowing elements from old master’s painting Kane creates personal compositions that exists between tradition and contemporary fairy tales. This work is an investigation into painting’s many varied visual languages and her understanding of it. She uses her audiences familiarity with these languages to push the possibilities of what a ‘proper’ landscape painting might be. As a result these paintings hover between appearing exotic to domestic, historical to ubiquitous and from naive to informed.

Robert Holyhead makes abstract paintings in relation to small watercolour studies. The watercolours are made in response to his ongoing visual observation of the formal devices used to represent the abstract language within painting. The canvas works arrive from a process of addition and subtraction based on the interface between the watercolour studies, inherited abstract signs that already exist and the responsive decisions that adjust the balance and poise of these components whilst painting. Resisting the tradition of compositional outcome (each new work being informed by the previous) the work allows the activity and language to remain precarious and the surface convincing.

Nick Fox’s paintings, hide a labyrinth of disparate and sometimes conflicting meanings; ‘a rubble of distinct and unrelated signifiers’ - simultaneously clear and elusive. My paintings are camouflaged as decorative objects or planes of uninflected colour, drawing on Neoclassicism, Victorian visual culture and subcultural symbology to reveal imagery from contemporary pornography that defies the viewer’s initial expectation of an encounter with such seductive objects.

Julian Brown’s handmade geometry sits awkwardly between historical references; ambivalent to geometric abstraction or neo-expressionism the practice explores the tensions between order and chaos, structure and collapse, expression and control. Constrained by rules and procedures games are set up, systems created, obstacles overcome and barriers either escaped from or painted into. The interplay between geometric order and gestural freedom creates an animated state where the paintngs become both vulnerable and inventive.


Photographs by Iavor Lubomirov

Installation View



Neal Tait, Untitled, 100x127cm, Water colours and Acrylic paint on canvas, 2012



Miho Sato, Russian Actress, 50x55cm, Acrylic paint on wood panel, 2012



Robert Holyhead, Untitled, 11x76cm, Oil on canvas, 2009



Robert Holyhead, Untitled, 43x25cm, Oil on canvas, 2010



Paula Kane, Moonlight Palm #1&2, 25cm diameter, Oil on canvas, 2008



Claude Temin-Vergez, Ornament & Abstraction – Ghost#4, 100x80cm, Oil on canvas, 2012



Anna Prada, Still life en negro, 9.5x8x10.5cm, Mixed media plasticine, 2009; B&W, 6.5x32.5x21.5cm, Bowls and plasticine, 2009; Still life blue and turquoise, 7x237x7.5cm, Bowl and plasticine, 2009; Rich, Bizzarre, 6x11x10cm, Mixed media plasticine, 2009; Aubergine outside, 7.5x49x27.5cm, Bowls and plasticine, 2009; Rich Bizarre, 9.5x8x5.5cm, Larder & plasticine, 2009



Julian Brown, Zapora, 60x40cm, Acrylic on canvas, 2008



Julian Brown, Bucanneers, 60x60cm, 2009



Nick Fox, Phantasieblume Cabinet, Various works, 2007-2011