Communities Making a Mark
For this year's London Arcus Pride Art Show, Clifford Chance presents an exhibition of five LGBT+ artists: Angove, Roxana Halls, James Mortimer, J.A. Nicholls, and Stiofan O'Ceallaigh.
Our communities play a vital role in creating both physical and figurative spaces where we can be ourselves, without apology. Arcus Pride Art 2022 aims to remind us of who we are, what inspires us, and to celebrate what makes our community so unique.
A note from Michael Petry, curator
There are of course many ways to make a mark, historically as well as pictorially and, for this year’s exhibition, I have decided to look at the very different ways five LGBTQ+ artists make marks to create paintings.
Angove uses lush sweeps of colour in his large abstractions. In Big Band Send Off the paint rushes from right to left across the canvas and bright yellow merges into red and pink against a dark green background, a process that is almost reversed in Super Event. The paint seems almost unbounded while in Sandcastles or Aubergine Doors the central bright colourful stripe of paint is hedged in by large sways of dark colour that accelerates the central visual movement.
Roxana Halls on the other hand gently applies paint and only occasionally do we see the actual marks as in Obscured III where the white oil acts as highlights on a decorative plate that obscures the view of two nude smiling women. It is the narratives in her works that leave the greatest mark, as in Threesome III or Avenging where the central figure is mysteriously crying or swooping in like a superhero. In her recent Laughing series women are depicted roundly laughing after committing acts of violence; they have certainly made a mark.
James Mortimer similarly applies paint so that the making is almost hidden, like the stories he only hints at. The tiny almost invisible brushstrokes Mortimer deploys in works like Crocodile Landscape blend into a fantasy world of his own creation whereby it seems perfectly obvious a crocodile can leap from a river to bite a young man’s leg who seems to be on a summer camping holiday in Snowdonia. This is the largest painting (244cm x 183cm) we have ever shown at Clifford Chance and the sheer scale of it promises to overwhelm the viewer.
J.A. Nicholls deploys many mark making techniques often in a single work. In Kin a realistic thumb presses against very loose marks that denote lips while very rough marks make a green bandana barely holding in place a crop of brown hair made by distinctive thick sways of colour. The light blue background is barely there and includes drips of paint that further break up the surface reading of the work. In Nicholls’ In Person only a relatively few distinctive marks are needed to paint the face of a young child as if by magic.
Stiofan O’Ceallaigh’s marks simply drip off the page. Each wet stroke of acrylic is applied in a ‘stream-of-consciousness’ moment wherein he captures queer desire, identity and vivacity. The works burst into being and the traces of their making is plain for all to see.
But perhaps the biggest mark made by the show will be the re-introduction of a live audience as we get back to a new normal post the worst of Covid.