26 February - 4 April 2002
LONDON Main Gallery
Welcome to the seaside of dreams
By Sara Hudston
Alex Lowery's allusive paintings of West Bay in Dorset reveal the English seaside to be a place on the metaphorical edge, a location where mundane man-made objects meet the primal space of sea and sky.
Bare of figures and cleansed of cars, boats and other moveable appurtenances of everyday life, Lowery's discretely abstracted landscapes emanate an intense emotional aura. His West Bay is a place we can all recognise, an unlovely, rather downbeat, essentially urban collection of buildings, roads and street furniture somehow transformed by the luminosity of light and water into a beautiful and unsettling private world.
Lowery has spent more than a decade painting West Bay and his re-imagining of this putative resort can be seen as a quest to capture its unique essence of place. His evocative paintings are not direct observations of actual locations, but scenes from an interior landscape. His method is essentially one of reduction and distillation; over the years the work has become barer and emptier as he pares away extraneous detail.
The results emphasise an existential isolation of self. Lowery's paintings communicate a dreamlike feeling of disorientation akin to being alone on an abandoned film set after the action has finished and the crew has packed up and gone home. Life is elsewhere, perhaps just beyond the edge of the picture.
Resolutely modernist, these paintings exhibit a confident belief in the cool purity of line and form. Lowery wryly employs a restrained repertoire of geometric shapes as painterly motifs. Rows of chimney pots echo crenulated wall tops; poles and signs become enigmatic symbols that function both as observed objects and aesthetic flourishes.
Using oil paint over a charcoal outline Lowery produces an understated, yet finely calculated paint surface, enabling him to make subtle use of chromatic effects. The paint varies in opacity, in places floating thinly over the grain of the canvas, in others filling the surface with deceptive restraint.
The apparent simplicity of Lowery's painting concentrates its metaphorical possibilities. By depicting the finite borders of reality - the end of the road, the level horizon between sea and sky, the banality of buildings - he leads us to the edge and invites us to make an imaginative leap into the infinite.
This will be Alex Lowery's second solo exhibition at Art First.
An illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition with an essay by the writer and curator, Ian Jeffrey.