On Thursday, I headed over to the preview of Chris Agnew’s exhibition, held at ‘Nancy Victor Gallery’ in Charlotte Street, London. (The nearest tube is Goodge Street) I had seen Agnew’s work previously but in a low lit space in Vyner Street. This time, I had a chance to see the intricate detail of his work in the daylight.
Currently he is residing in Romania where his most recent work has been developed. This piece also in the exhibition, is an earlier work and is created using resin. Chris explained how this material was tricky to source in Romania, so instead he began to use gessoed boards traditionally used for iconography painting.
The following work is created on these iconography boards, using etching tools to scratch into its surface. Then he works over the surface with oil paint and sand paper to bring out different tonal areas.
Agnew explores folklore and local legends surrounding a particular place. He described how this mountain depicted, is believed to be the the site of Noah’s Ark. Because sites such as this, are in far flung places through out the world, Agnew will gather relevant information from the internet, from which to make studies from.
Societies throughout the world build significance to places, structures and natural landscapes. These places can evoke both awe and reflection and a sense of a shared communial history. At the same time, seedy undercurrents of exploitation may be even physical violence, are also drawn to these sites. In Agnew’s work, because they are so beautifully and delicately rendered, they capture an expression of purity and calmness. This sense of reverie is enhanced by the artwork acting as an empty stage, devoid of characters, where the viewer can re- imagine such mythologies.
By creating the ‘actual scene’ in paint, the stories seem completely real and believable, more so than seeing a photograph of the same mountain. Symbols of triangles and stars add to the religious and spiritual associations.
This painting is about the village of Darvaza, where Russian geologists found an underground chamber whilst drilling for gas. The drilling rig collapsed to leave a giant gas filled crater, which was then lit in order to burn off the posionous fumes. However, it is still burning after almost forty years as the supply of gas in the crater is so huge. The place is now accidentally famous as a ‘gate to hell,’ and a modern day myth has been created.
I absolutely love Chris Agnew’s etched paintings. They are exquisitely beautiful and so perfectly rendered. There is more work to see at the exhibition, such as pencil drawings created using sanded down mechanical pencils, which show almost impossible detail. As a person, he is charming to meet, intelligent and thoughtful about his work both in subject matter and execution. This show is definitely worth checking out. It is open until 6th July 2012
Information from Nancy Victor Website below.
“The Pomp of Circumstances presents a series of works that operate on the understanding that belief systems – be they philosophical, ideological or religious – are largely based on a labyrinth of accidents, mistranslations, pseudo-scientific reasoning and dogmatic entrapment.
In his first solo show at Nancy Victor, Agnew employs the tools of polemical hindsight and sceptical foresight. The drawings and etched panels present us with a variety of curious scenarios including London’s new skyscraper the Shard frozen in Friedrich’s Sea of Ice and the USA’s Pentagon imagined in the form of a Roman dodecahedron – a small hollow object found at various sites around Europe which no-one has ever definitively concluded the purpose of. With multiple references to apocalyptic prophecies and absurd theories, the exhibition pays homage to these seemingly inconsequential components of civilization and insists that they are of paramount importance to a freethinking society.
The complexity of the works themselves plays a crucial role in their narrative; one gets the impression that every detail is essential to the perception and understanding of the whole. The pencil drawings seek to lay all the evidence on the table; every window, brick and garbage chute is presented for the scrutiny of the observer. The idiosyncratic nature of the etched panels consisting of etchings on primed wood, over which oil paint is layered – appears to be a necessary product of the marriage between a resonance of the traditional etching process and the artist’s insistence on the originality of the object.
There is a preoccupation with teleological discourse in the series, in that the subject of each image appears to exist for the sake of a particular end. Even the colourful geometrical forms that intrude upon various scenes, seek to remind us that though the garden may be beautiful, there will always be those that try to ascribe some logic and order to the fairies at the bottom.”
Chris Agnew gained a BA degree in Contemporary Art Practice at The University of Leeds (2008) and a Masters degree in Fine Art at Wimbledon College of Art (2010). His work has been short-listed for the Jerwood Drawing Prize (2009 and 2010), The Clifford Chance Post-Graduate Printmaking Prize (2010) and Saatchi’s New Sensations (2010).
Private View: Thursday 7th June, 6-8pmShow: Friday 8th June – Friday 6th July Monday to Friday 10am – 6pm Saturdays 12pm – 5pm