CHRIS FREMANTLE

What Art have I seen?

Posted in CF Writing, Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on November 18, 2010

James McNaught at Ewan Mundy Fine Art.  This scan of the invitation card does not do this work justice.  Figurative art is not dead.  Painting is not dead.  This sequence of work, almost all concerning urban spaces, but also including two or three still lives, is completely compelling and utterly bewitching.  The quality of surreal space (reminding me a little of De Chirico), the implicit narratives of revolution and religion, the still strangeness animated by gusts, were a joy, each more interesting than the last.

McNaught’s works, though labelled as watercolours, are not wishy washy or lightweight.  The scenes remind me of various parts of Europe – the appearance of the Eiffel Tower in the distance suggests a working class suburb of Paris, but some of the architecture suggests Italy.  The ships, trams and buildings suggest an unmodernised area.  The relationship between key aspects of the foreground, the recurrent ‘Abbe’, the crows, the prams sometimes upset, and the papers caught in gusts all suggest a narrative of the imagination.  The symbolism of the ‘abbe’ and the crow, in at least one image obvious transformed from one to the other, is perhaps in competition with the symbolism of the Eiffel Tower, the centennial monument to the French Revolution.  I’d associate the papers, stacked on a pram or caught in gusts of wind in otherwise very still space, with another form of knowledge from the religious, perhaps with revolution, but communication is also broken – in a number of works the overhead telephone lines are broken.  But my favourite was a work entitled ‘still life with all the objects fallen to the edge of the table’, or something like that – almost Juan Gris cubism.

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