Max Wigram

Joel Tomlin

09 Sep - 08 Oct 2005

Joel Tomlin
9 September ­ 8 October 2005
Private view: Thursday 8 September, 6.30­8.30pm

Joel Tomlin1s debut solo London exhibition takes the form of a series of paintings, where wilderness dominates and personal memories lie at the heart of the work.

Raw canvas used for tapestries, burnt opiated colours and unfinished surfaces plunge the viewer into a world where nothing is as simple or as stable as it seems. Quick brushes arrest on small natural details but hunt for figures of non-descriptive gender, which flee the governing landscape. Their ripe adolescent bodies are hinted but slow down the tempo of the paintings when our attention is caught in noticing their activities. They play with toy pistols (Pistol, 2005) or snakes (Snake Boys, 2005) and are involved with forms of illicit rituals taking place outdoor, away from home as in the case of our first lived experiences with drugs and sex as teenagers. They suggest an alienated state of mind narcotised by an illusion of freedom comfortably stretching back to a time of paganism and superstition. However, adolescence and wilderness do not intend to recall ancient Greek symbols of wilderness in opposition to civilisation: Tomlin1s subject matters inhabit woods and uncultivated lands, frontier zones where the engagement with the world is interrupted to be substituted with 3intuitions clothed in all their evanescent circumstances and accompanying feelings2 (Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium Eater).

To reflect the anachronism of his fable-like paintings ‹ a style he easily plays with given its legitimisation through the culture industry ‹, Tomlin paints out of insular reveries that give his paintings an expanded bandwidth for memories bathed in cloudless serenity. As if remembered in slow-motion replay, the motives in Bloom (2005) possess an internal logic to its narrative, mainly relating to how it is made. Being committed to oil paint for its essentially introspective nature, Tomlin has no interest in referencing sources from psychoanalysis or art history such as Symbolism. He instead progressively eliminates any arbitrary reliance on mass-produced
imagery to allow his subjects matters to surface by themselves, through an incessant work on the canvas and the poverty of materials that makes his paintings1 rawness their refinement.

His exemplary devotion to painting is similar to the insularity of British
painter Francis Bacon and the obliqueness of corrupted subject matters of the Polish Balthus. Like these two, Tomlin produces work in muted tones founded on strict observation and internalization of things and people. He examines the irrational sides of a private lyricism, becoming the dark interpreter of dreams caught in no romanticism or emotion but only in enigmatic fantasies. In Tapestry Repair (2005) the idea of a tapestry repaired in amateur fashion is described through the detail of a figure dragging the tapestry across the floor. The ambition of this and Tomlin1s other paintings is to look at a moment of epiphany that can1t be obtained, where the last stroke leaves the painting balanced between that which we can see and that which we imagine. His works tell us that outside is a realm of deserted places, where there can1t be any communion between man and nature but only illicit, pagan sensations.

Further press information
Please contact Nicola Lees on +44 (0)20 7689 0429 or
Max Wigram Gallery, 43b Mitchell Street, London. EC1V 3QD

© Toy Pistol, 2005, Oil on linen, 200 x 170cm

Tags: Francis Bacon, Balthus