SOLO: AFTER SUN
Van 26/04/2022 tot 04/06/2022
Ernest Allardstraat 25 - 1000 - BRUSSEL
Nino Mier Gallery
Ernest Allardstraat 25 - 1000 Brussel
Nino Mier Gallery is pleased to present Aftersun, an exhibition of new paintings by UK-based artist Jonathan Wateridge. The exhibition, which develops the artist’s investigation of affect and class as they coalesce around the poolside, will be on view in Brussels from April 26 – June 4, 2022.
A haunted phantasmagoria pervades Jonathan Wateridge’s Aftersun. Spectral, isolated men and women blend in and out of their poolside environments, gritty faces look past us with obscure intensity, and phosphorescent, glowing bodies loom overhead. Shadowy, sensual figures appear and disappear throughout the paintings in this exhibition, their surfaces partially eroded as if vestiges of a bygone past. The exhibition hovers in the liminal realm between public and private, the actual and the fantasied. The familiar is estranged in this representation of a life of leisure in threatened decline.
The works in Aftersun are the latest installment in a series of poolside paintings for which Wateridge is well-known. The series initially explored economic and racial tensions in postcolonial Zambia, witnessed by a young Wateridge most poignantly in and around pools. Early paintings in this body of work featured adroit representations of figures emanating foreboding auras of decadence, atomization, and social discordance, based on large sets built by the artist and populated with figure models. The suite of works in Aftersun marks a departure from these earlier works, both formally and conceptually.
The expressive elements of Wateridge’s style come to the fore in Aftersun, combining a sense of the cinematic with the visual grammars of modernism. Many of the paintings’ compositions reflect framing conventions of film, and his use of stark, bright light recalls the camera’s flash at night. Swimmer in Yellow, for instance, depicts a woman sitting at a pool’s edge, staring pensively just past the viewer. Like in a film still, the canvas is horizontal and centers the subject’s expressive face. Her body’s yellow contours and pale skin radiate with a power that evokes studio lighting. Wateridge has long been interested in the relationship between painting and the filmic, having appropriated the cinematic process to create his early paintings. Such nods to motion pictures are suggestive of artifice and storytelling, but the work remains a captivatingly open narrative.
The insinuation of mediation and narrative within each painting is balanced with the immediacy of material and form. Each painting in the exhibition is heavily worked, creating a sense of materiality discordant with the spectrality of the figures within them. Wateridge notes that his paintings on canvas, which can evolve over many months, often have had as much paint taken off the canvas as has been applied to it. Likewise, his works on paper depict dreamlike, almost violently weathered subjects whose bodies are partially transparent, an effect achieved through sanding down the paper’s surface. Such changes are visible on the surfaces of the works, which embrace moments wherein the limits of bodies and architectures are porous, incomplete, or indeterminate.
While the pool as a signifier of good life optimism and Western affluence remains prominent in Aftersun, figures have now begun to encroach upon other interior and exterior environments, such as bedrooms, parlors, and gardens. And rather than probing his memory for scenes and atmospheres he remembers in Zambia, Wateridge now locates his figures in a kind of wealthy anyplace. More than just displaying interpersonal tension, this body of work explores how class anxiety might find an aesthetic articulation. There is a sense that these figures are isolated, interrupted, or insecure, unsure that the world they occupy will be available to them tomorrow. The stability of their social formations—much like the stability of their painterly forms and surfaces—is effaced.
Aftersun is the sunburn after the fever dream, the weakened body after heatstroke. Nightfall illuminates what has slipped away into formlessness as a disquieting atmosphere saturates this world. Wateridge’s figures float around their private paradises like ghosts haunting a realm they don’t quite belong to but remain entrapped by. Here, Wateridge registers a crisis in perception: his figures’ eyeless faces look, but they cannot see.
Jonathan Wateridge (b. Lusaka, Zambia, 1972; lives and works in Norfolk, UK) will have multiple recently acquired works exhibited as a solo presentation at the Aïshti Foundation in 2022. The artist has most recently exhibited with the Hayward Gallery, London; T.J. Boulting, London; Galerie Haas, Zurich; Pace Gallery and HENI, London. Wateridge's work is in the collections of institutions worldwide, including Aïshti Foundation, Lebanon; Pinault Foundation, Venice; the Saatchi Collection, London; the Rennie Collection, Vancouver; and Simmons & Simmons, London.