Interiors / Exteriors at Susan Eley Fine Art

March 9, 2012

David Collins - The Upstairs

David Colling – Skiff
James Isherwood – Bender

James Isherwood - Sheer House

James Isherwood and David Collins presented a concept show at Susan Eley, running at her gallery on W 90 Street through April 15.

James Isherwood is a representational artist who uses photographs of high-concept luxury houses as the starting point for his paintings.  These paintings aren’t statements of envy, they’re the starting point for his imaginings.

Isherwood’s paintings are quite exceptional.  He works on board and paper and one of his most intriguing ideas is integrating texture into the body of his paintings.  He achieves this by, at some point in the process, pressing paper towels onto the wet paint.  This achieves two ends: it creates patterns as evident in Sheer House, but also removes paint, creating an effect as though you were looking at the painting through screening.  Quite interesting.  This effect can be seen quite well in Bender on the sides of the building.

You would expect the paintings’ surfaces to be rough, but they’re really quite smooth which is just another unexpected aspect of the work, as is the fact that each painting can take as long as three years to complete.  They don’t look at though they’re coated with resin to create the smoothness.  Just another of Isherwood’s mysteries.

It’s clear that these paintings represent complex interior emotions played out through architectural musings.

David Collins’ work is precisely opposite.  He’ll tell you that he’s working though the emotions of his early experiences but his work is extremely intellectual.  He’s thinking about places and his experiences in those places and he’s trying to tell you everything in one canvas.

Note how geometric Collins’s work is.  Everything is angular – there is no softness.  He uses a complex technique of taping and painting and layering to achieve this extreme of precision.

We discussed his intent as being similar to Margaret Withers in her paintings.  She too is channeling her childhood.  Withers’ iconography uses hands, lines and eyes, providing an emotional view of her past.  In contrast, Collins’ sharp points and irregular objects create an intellectual, neo-Cubist, externalization without warmth.

His paintings are good but they are cold.  I prefer the simplicity of Skiff, which I like very much, to paintings like The Upstairs.  I do think he has something going and would like to see more.


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