A Review of Further Away at Copeland Gallery, London
Where is Further Away? How far can our imagination carry us? To Cuba, to a place of little sense, to the boundary between life and death? The ten artists featured in this exhibition at Copeland Gallery do precisely that: they transport the viewer somewhere they have not ventured yet. Curated by India Dickinson, the journey begins with Ivo Morrison’s indigo fantasies, where oneiric worlds are shrouded in mystery and nostalgia.
Following this blue pathway the viewer is led through a series of exquisite small landscapes of nowhere by Robert Nicol to the second exhibition room, featuring some of the largest and most impressive works on display. Stephen Thorpe’s, Thom Hobson’s, and Stevie Dix’s paintings playfully engage with notions of surrealism and abstraction.
Thorpe’s fantastic monsters and creatures evoke distant myths and obscure fables that seem pulled from a forgotten children’s book, where awkward demons and a triumphant Prince Charming enact enigmatic rituals. From enchanted landscapes, to domestic settings, Thorpe’s canvases kindle in the viewer the uncanny feeling of recognising some of the narratives, which are both familiar and strange.
Thom Hobson’s jarring compositions declare his love for German expressionists and outsider artists. In one work, the central character’s cartoonish appearance is reminiscent of the late work of Philip Guston. However Hobson’s pink man sits more comfortably in its vague, made-up world, there’s more swagger radiating from its reclining posture and confident smile.
Belgian artist Stevie Dix (also Hobson’s wife and partner in their artistic duo, The Cone Sisters), blurs the boundaries between figuration and abstraction even further. Indeed, part of what at first might look like a non-figurative assemblage of shapes and colours, reveals itself as a leg. Still, this dismembered, trunk-less limb is none the less abstract because it is identifiable. On the contrary, precisely because it fluctuates isolated, amidst uncertain forms, the absurdity of its humanity is amplified.
Awaiting the viewer at the end of the exhibition, there’s Daisy Dickinson’s video Blue, But Pale Blue, the only time-based media artwork featured in the show. Existing in a bubble of its own, (and in a separate room) the setting already prepares the audience for this under-water experience. Narrative, but abstract at the same time, Dickinson’s video imagines what it feels like to die and portrays it as a joyful, uplifting experience. Beyond the pain and the stupor the protagonist enters an aquatic world of music and appears weightlessly liberated “from the fetters of matter”, as Sigmund Freud would say.
Certainly, this is a trait that all works on display at Further Away have in common: by freeing their subjects of the laws of nature and physics, the artists create awesome, dream-like worlds where the viewer’s imagination is allowed to roam boundlessly. Jack Penny's figurative works were also a favourite with a more subdued, moodier colour palette on one side of the room juxtaposing his more tropical endeavours across the way.
Further Away was curated by India Dickinson, an independent curator and art advisor, and remained open between June 1st and 6th at Copeland Gallery in Peckham, London. The artists featured in this exhibition were: Ned Armstrong, Venetia Berry, Daisy Dickinson, Stevie Dix, Thom Hobson, Ivo Morrison, Robert Nicol, Jack Penny, Orfeo Tagiuri, and Stephen Thorpe.
Written by Alisei Apollonio, a Contributor to Arteviste.