NEIL GALL // JAMES HARRISON // NICK JENSEN // NICHOLAS JOHNSON // LISTEN STUDIO // DAMIEN MEADE // BEN SANSBURY // RAPHAËL ZARKA
Private View: 12-6pm, Saturday 6 February, 2016
The Averard Hotel, 10 Lancaster Gate, London W2 3LH
Exhibition Dates: 6 February - 28 February (inclusive), open Thu-Sun, 12-6pm
Black Light is a group exhibition, co-curated with Twelve Around One, which takes Matisse’s Porte-fenêtre (French Window) of 1914, distinguished by its heavy application of black paint, as a point of departure. Painted in autumn 1914 at Issy, the sunlit scene outside the window is depicted paradoxically, in absolute darkness. There is a close parallel with the story of Oedipus Rex, as told by Sophocles. Oedipus is cursed by the gods to commit the crimes of regicide and incest as prophesied by the blind oracle of Delphi. He searches in vain for the protagonist of these dark prophecies, not knowing that he is looking for himself. Oedipus’ physical sight had blinded him to the metaphorical truth; on learning the truth of his own guilt he gouges out his eyes and finally achieves a prophetic, ‘inner’ sight. The drama of Sophocles hinges on the dialectic between actual sight and metaphorical sight, on the impossibility of achieving the latter without abandoning the former. Oedipus must be blind before he can see.
In a similar way, Matisse’s French Window operates by concealing the very thing it tries to represent. The vibrancy and hue of colour pigments could never really match the light and colour from the window. Thus, Matisse paints with the darkness of inner sight, his knowledge of the light. By now, he knows too much about light to try to paint it directly. By showing presence through absence, and using black as a sign or placeholder for light, Matisse is opening a path to conceptual painting. The ambiguity of whether we are looking through an open window onto a bright scene outside or at a reflection of the room inside in the glass of a close window, itself mirrors the duality of realism and psychological space of this painting. The Great War had just broken out when Matisse painted French Window; its implicit prophecy of these events, makes it a properly Oedipal painting.
The contemporary artists proposed for this exhibition build on the legacy of French Window. Here, painting, understood in its expanded sense, is both material specific and psychological space. It operates as a series of signs, obscures and obstructs to reveal, and plays on the duality of surface as reflection/window and inside/outside.
‘Black Light' is part of the second edition of exhibitions at the Averard Hotel.
About of the Averard Hotel:
The Averard Hotel stands at the western end of the Lancaster Gate development. Built in English Baroque with French mannerist touches in the 1850s, Lancaster Gate was popular with wealthy families. The 1920s saw its grand homes divided into flats and hotel rooms, and the introduction of Art Deco interiors. The Averard Hotel has been stripped back to reveal its multi-layered history in a state of arrested decay, as it awaits renovation into luxury flats. An exhibition programme, hosting a series of projects by international galleries, curators and artists, is taking place until October 2016.