For The Back of Beyond, The Hus's exhibition's director Jessica Warren has brought together three artists, Sam Irons, Neil Raitt and Adam Bainbridge. They work in different media but share an interest in the surreal. Each has taken familiar objects or scenes but deprived them of their usual context, in so doing creating an environment that's discordant yet thought provoking.
In photographer Sam Irons' picture above, for example, he has taken the familiar sight of one of those soulless distribution warehouses that we see on the edge of towns all over the country and indeed the developed world. In their Neopolitan ice-cream colours, they hold a certain aesthetic quality while at the same time represent the mundane.
"Everything we deal with in our daily lives," he tells me, "comes from these kind of buildings yet you can't access them and they show nothing...it's inherently excluding."
The sense of isolation in Irons' work stems from his unwillingness to contextualise his images. There are no physical references. The title of the above picture is merely a grid reference, 35° 01'39.89"N 106°2009. By making them unplaceable, he believes his photographs can retain a sense of mystery and any metaphors remain universal.
A ladder stretching over the globe-shaped roof of a shopping mall in another of his photos may be the means by which a cleaner gains access but he'd rather it be seen as a symbol of society overreaching itself or a metaphor for the human condition. Irons is a graduate in photography from Brighton University having previously gained a degree in English at Trinity College, Dublin.
Adam Bainbridge's pencil drawings comprise a series entitled "Noirs" after a group of works of the same name by French symbolist artist Odilon Redon. Bainbridge has photographed images of classical ceramic figurines from the V and A alongside kitsch objects familiar to middle-class suburban mantelpieces. He's then digitally manipulated and deconstructed these photographs before copying them in detailed pencil drawings such as in Bloom (above) giving them a soft haze and glow. He has created a three-dimensional effect as if a cameo has somehow either begun to melt or been hideously deformed. As with Sam Irons' exhibits, Bainbridge eschews context.
"I like the timeless quality, you can't quite place them, you don't really know what they are. I want them to exist between these kind of boundaries."
By using memories, imagination and distorting this kind of iconography, Bainbridge's work has echoes of the subconscious about it. Bainbridge has degrees in both Painting and Fine Art from the Slade School and the Royal College of Art.
Digital manipulation also lies at the heart of Neil Raitt's work though from influence rather than practice. In large oil paintings, he has taken classic icons of Alpine landscapes - with their fir trees and snowy peaks - and has reproduced them again and again to form what's essentially an abstract pattern that somehow draws one in by way of an hypnotic effect.
The result, as shown in Alpine 12.02 (above), is in many ways as influenced by images on the internet and in advertising generally, as about classical painting. It's as much about the surface as it is about the depth of the image with the brushwork painstakingly creating each peak as marks on a surface. Once again, all context is lost.
"It comes out of an idea of being theatrical in a way. There's a threatening aspect to the sublime and to nature, and that context of thought is something I'm really interested in," he insists.
Raitt, who holds degrees in Painting and Fine Art from The Royal College of Art and Norwich University College of the Arts, uses light to both reveal and to effect a kind of anodyne quality about his paintings to accentuate the threatening aspect he mentions.
The Back of Beyond is defined as a place someone has been to and no one can properly describe. It's this netherworld of disassociations that these three artists have sought to create and which binds them together in the exhibition.
The Back of Beyond runs until 26 April at the Hus Gallery, 10 Hanover Street, London W1s 1YQ.
The images used are by permission of the gallery.Suggest a correction