Susie Hamilton, ‘Jemaa el-Fna’ 2014. Oil on canvas. 40 x 40 cm
Georgia Hayes, ‘Getting Together in the British Museum’ 2013. Oil on canvas. 183 x 214 cm
Mit Senoj, ‘Miss Asilidae’ 2014. Watercolour, Indian ink and shellac on paper. 83.5 x 50 cm

Susie Hamilton / Georgie Hayes / Mit Senoj
Paul Stolper Gallery
31 Museum Street, London
May 22nd – June 21st, 2014

‘I believe that in contemporary figurative painting the paint is not simply there to be crafted to serve the image, but must make itself felt in a robust and separate way’ (Georgia Hayes 2003).

Opening May 22nd, Paul Stolper Gallery will present the paintings of  ‘Susie Hamilton/Georgia Hayes/Mit Senoj,’ three very different artists who use the language of paint to depict the figure. Whilst their work is figurative in the literal sense, what contrasts them is the manner in which each artist roots the figure to the landscape, be it real or imaginary.

Susie Hamilton makes small, spontaneous drawings and watercolours, which are then are worked and re-worked back in the studio, honing in on particular characters, colours and compositions. Georgia Hayes similarly makes her initial drawings by observing real people and places. The sketches become the arena which she can then manipulate and add to, rendering the real somewhat surreal. Mit Senoj also works from real life, drawing and painting models, though not in the traditional studio setting but through the internet where he uses live web cams.

Susie Hamilton presents oil on canvas paintings from three bodies of work; ‘Morocco’, ‘Malls’ and ‘Forest’. In Hamilton’s work, the emphasis is on the figure in wilderness. The wilderness can be either a forest or the glaring aisles of a mall or superstore, but the artist uses both as an area for transformation, where the figure becomes abstracted and mutated, tipping into something unfamiliar.  The artist concentrates on shape, and with thin veils of oil paint, she combines solid forms in a quick and spontaneous way.  There is a figurative presence but Hamilton’s shapes are not obvious and they border on the abstract. In ‘Morocco’ solitary figures, depicted in raking light, are demolished, transfigured and exposed. Set in these extremes of glare and shadow, the figures are unprotected; they are wandering, outcast or poor. In  ‘Wayfarer’ 2014, the subject’s dark shadow is like a sundial, fixing and limiting the figure in time and space.  Set against vast emptiness and dressed in Islamic burqa or jellaba these wandering figures are like pilgrims questing and searching in a wilderness. And they are not so different from Hamilton’s shoppers in the wilderness of malls and superstores whose disconsolate poses may suggest that they are looking for something beyond that which is in front of them on the shelves.

Georgia Hayes’ vibrant canvases depict figures in narrative spaces.  Birds and animals wander into the image, ‘flattened and displayed against a candy box of colours for our viewing pleasure’ (Cathy Lomax, 2013). Often her canvases appear re-worked, paint is scraped away, leaving a shadow of a former figure or object. What is clear is that the ‘paint itself is an intense presence’ (Monroe Hodder, 2003). The artist disassociates objects from their normal surroundings, her images are ‘destabilised and left to float away from fixed references or association’  (Sacha Craddock, Pynto 2002). By doing so, her paintings teach us to see objects as having significance in themselves. In ‘Learning in the Museum’ 2011 two figures, an Egyptian and Jane Mansfield, lean over an abstracted display case to examine the contents.  A large stone ape and colourful reptile figurines are enlarged and in this way, these small items, which might have otherwise been overlooked are given a significant place in the image. “I paint things that have had a visual or emotional impact.   Friends, animals or objects in museums are on-going interests; subjects which when mixed with other things seem to reveal new, unexpected ideas.” (Georgia Hayes 2014)

Mit Senoj’s solitary female figures appear trapped and suspended within the landscape.  His ink and watercolour paintings depict female figures that melt into nature, forming images of intense beauty that are neither figurative nor abstract. Flora, fauna and figure become intertwined; ‘they are sexual, but with a scientific observational distance’ (J. Hendrickson, Art in Print, 2012).  To emphasize the sharp, thorny nature of the plant life or the often clawing and grotesque nature of the insects, Senoj physically cuts and slashes the paper, and then like sap from a tree, he coats the finished images in a varnish. Evocative of both designs by William Morris and the seductive lines of Egon Scheile, Senoj’s work points to both conflict between man and nature and the uneasy relationship between the two. Whereas these ink and watercolour paintings are based in fantasy and executed with meticulous detail, Senoj’s new larger paintings in both watercolour and oil depict wraith like female figures in explicit poses. They are twisted and suggestive, red paint drips down the image, these works are at once seductive, violent and visceral.  This series of work has an urgency and energy, the sexual poses of the figures make the viewer a witness to a naked body, while recalling the tradition of life painting. ‘My practice is concerned with our physiological self and the psychological response to our inner science. The distortion of the natural law of forms, into the unimaginable’ (Mit Senoj, 2014).

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