Ed Ecco a Voi . . .
6 – 31 July 2020
Josh Lilley is pleased to present Ed Ecco a Voi . . . , British painter Nicholas Hatfull’s third solo exhibition at the gallery.
Nicholas Hatfull is a champion and a pusher of the painting medium. He performs at the canvas with both the precision of a guild artisan and the pert, experimental play of the absurdist. It is an offbeat form of devotion with a heavy poetic yield, like a jeweller cleaning silver with ash. Hatfull can zoom across the canvas without breaking character, toughening the brushstroke into a slick vector. He can wipe it all back, too; he’s not precious. Airbrush and speckling make the hand disappear. Tissue paper might serve as blotting paper, toning an area down, only to be re-employed as a monoprint stamp, dampening matters elsewhere. Painterly effects are so abundant, in fact, that they don’t fight for the viewer’s affection — the innate technical flash of the artist’s toolbox is never the point.
The paintings in this exhibition are concerned with objects in space. Three works depict yukata — lightweight summer kimonos — over brackish, blotchy landscapes. In amongst them are loaves of bread from a pan splitting apart in steamy sinew, a shy pizza half-occluded but somehow also bleeding through the central yukata motif, tumbling leaves, tumbling cherry tomatoes, and the like. Hatfull experienced and logged each of these elements in person: the garments in a museum, on stiff armatures; the landscapes, Siberian tundra thousands of metres away, from an airplane window; the tomatoes from another artwork; the pizza and bread rolls sampuru, the ubiquitous, uncanny foodstuffs rendered in wax or plastic that surely qualify as Japanese vernacular art.
A painting of gelato pans on display recedes into the distance, a highway of coloured tiles. Each hue is a flavour, their each surface a story about desire. This kaleidoscope strip travels in undefinable space. The curious cold steam from its surface lifts and combines with the dappled ice and sienna ether of the background. The yield, always, is a field. It’s space, Hatfull engages clearly with space, and he sometimes even obeys space’s rules about light, and scale, and perspective. He is, after all, an academy painter, and at moments the paintings lock together in conventional, if unusual, logic. Consider the gelato painting, which obeys pictorial rules right up to the moment that all rules evaporate. It made sense until it didn’t.
Consider the airplane-window aerial landscapes and the erect scarecrow vibe of the yukata, for example, and one may say that these are categorically paintings of flying garments, animated by breeze or ghosts. At the point a viewer might settle upon a clear, singular reading of the work such as this, however, a gargantuan and slightly too perfect loaf of bread enters the mix, or the pattern on the textile starts to bump and flex, or the pizza becomes more brave. The clear reading cannot be sustained.
Ultimately, as a viewer, one must simply accept the coexistence of these elements, and come around to the idea that this is not space as we know it, not space that represents the world. Instead, as memories near and far collide in engineered and accidental rhythm, it becomes increasingly clear that Hatfull is a painter of time, more than a painter of space. Memories, and the places where they accumulate, do not look like the place they came from.
The final series of work in this exhibition depicts gorgeously tinted skies disrupted by punctuation. Contrails slash down the frame, vapour making arrows. An array of pink dots, maybe limbs of planes, studs a night vista as it fades from the fun cobalt of the day before. The sky’s stories — we call these things phenomena. Perhaps this is the term for what this painter pursues.
Nicholas Hatfull’s Ed Ecco a Voi . . . will be on view from July 7 to August 1 in Josh Lilley’s 40-42 Riding House Street location. Tom Anholt’s Notes on Everything continues through August 1 in the 44-46 Riding House Street galleries.