Life-Storytelling through Paintings
Updated: Feb 7, 2019
Have you ever had a diary? Have you ever tried to express your memories on paper, canvas, computer screen? Thoughts about school, university, work, family, friends, events, something that has happened either good or bad, ideas that stay in your mind for some time. Then I have a feeling it never occurred to you to show your diary to anyone. No judging. It is so personal. But what if you share your experience with someone, with everyone…? I guess you have to be in complete peace of mind or continuously looking for your identity. Stuart Pearson Wright’s ‘Halfboy’ is indeed almost a photographical representation of the artist’s life, the experience of his childhood and his ambivalent familial relationships.
The short description of the current exhibition at the Heong gallery refers to an unusual fact about the artist. He was conceived in 1975 using anonymous donor sperm. This means that he will never have access to his paternal heritage, and, as he admits, the remorse of a father led him to the identity crisis. Even more, several his mother’s marriages made him confused about the understanding of family in general. And here, in this exhibition, Mother, Stepdad, Halfbrother, Halfsister appear as a part of a personal story told by Halfboy.
Figurative-painting is unavoidably a narrative form and telling stories is an inherently theatrical process.
Marco Livingstone in conversation with Stuart Pearson Wright, 'Halfboy' catalogue
Through rigorous work in rendering different scenes and characters, the artist gives ability for the viewers to sense the reality, to empathize with them, feeling awkwardness, melancholy, sadness. Same domestic places and objects reconstructed from old photographs tend to reappear in different paintings making it easier to relate to any of the living family at that time. However, scenes created in very fine details (no surprise the artist is inspired by Lucien Freud, Graham Sutherland, John Milton) are juxtaposed with something that is flat and abstract. The TV in ‘Halfboy and Halfsister’ is created with real zebrawood veneer stuck onto the canvas or smoke from the cigarette is glued-on sheep’s wool, the grass in ‘Nausea’ is made from the material that model railway enthusiast would use to create their landscape, the trees are made with leaves that each and every one is cut from paper with a scalpel and stuck on them. This combination of techniques makes you think what actually you are looking at is a piece of fiction, not photocopied reality.
The perspective catches the eye from the very first look at the paintings. Stage looking background, tilted floors open the scene for the characters like in a theatre performance. And even more, it feels like objects, characters are floating seeing themselves from the side.
In general, no one can describe what happened objectively. I have shared with you a story about the bee and the tiger previously. Thus, the artist is biased. Recreating characters, he is eager to distort them, to impose the noticeable features, like elongated face becomes more elongated, to make them look more like him. He tends to exaggerate the situation adding irony to his work, and this helps to create the distance between the reality and idea, the artist and the viewer, and the truth and feelings.
Stuart Pearson Wright also expresses interest in sculpture, music, film. Two films were set up for the opening weekend. ‘Maze’ is a two-channel video installation featuring British actress Keira Knightley (!). Two TVs – one placed in front of the other – show the search of two characters who fail to find each other. And as a viewer I had mixed feelings: like the characters I was trapped in the maze, but at the same time I could see both characters from their side, in a way I was floating above them. Another installation called 'Kinght’s tale' presents a lone knight wondering through the forest, fighting unseen enemies which are nothing but his own masculine failure.
The artist is frankly sharing his story, and now it is up to us whether to have a look at his painted dairy.
I had a chance to witness how the artist himself brought the last painting ‘Kid with the Bleeding Brain’ for a display in the opening day of the show. Paints were still wet as the artwork was finished only the night before that. Feeling a bit sentimental, I have to say that yesterday was the last day of the exhibition ‘Halfboy’ at the Heong Gallery. Extremely personal, widely open, so British, with theatrical perspective, exceptionally realistic life-storytelling through paintings was a great adventure to me. Looking forward to seeing what comes next.
See more on Stuart Pearson Wright:
- Special event at the Heong Gallery: Stuart Pearson Wright in conversation with Jock McFadyen RA (23 Jan 2019)
- his website
- time-lapse of painting a Boba Fett toy, one of the paintings from the exhibition 'Halfboy'
- some of his works
The Heong Gallery
Downing College, Regent Street, Cambridge, CB2 1DQ
2 Nov 2018 - 6 Feb 2019