Glenys Johnson. A City Distilled
James Hyman Gallery is proud to present an exhibition of new paintings by Glenys Johnson.
Glenys Johnson begins her London paintings by selecting a viewpoint of the City from which to take photographs. Photographs taken from the upper floors of Guy's hospital are the starting point for subtle paintings in which a specific city becomes a universal emblem for the contemporary metropolis.
As Suzanne Hall writes in her essay in the accompanying catalogue:
This topographic and distanced view reveals an eccentric cityscape, an accumulation of uneven shapes and volumes. Sporadic elements of legibility - the undulating Thames, the London Eye just apparent on the horizon - intersperse with mundane blocks that from afar are distinguished only by magnitude and articulations of light. Here is a City constituted by the peculiar collision of its extraordinary architectural elements and intensely ordinary landscapes. Captured in black and white slides and projected onto the studio floor, this view is distilled and edited. Johnson starts to compose, discarding iconic elements, arriving at a residue of grey streets and buildings; her chosen subject matter.
There are few landmarks or formal clues as to where we are; our sense of place is thwarted. Rather, the paintings are selected excerpts of 'city' represented through the seemingly banal description of density and mass
Easy orientation is denied; without landmark or context, without complete or familiar scenery, the view is an extract. Like memories and dreams, only the fragment is available...
The effect of this detached and ethereal quality is not simply a matter of editing. The physical nature of these paintings is also intrinsic to their meaning and their divergence from the established representations of the world we live in. The canvas is barely covered by shimmering grey mid-tones that are traces of a process that can hardly be described as painting. What we are shown is the result of applying and blotting, of something closer to ink than paint. As a result the paintings are closer to mirage than image; a quality of flux where the city is both appearing and disappearing
Up close to the painting the lines blur and are barely visible, the cityscape dissolves. Our recognition and familiarity are reduced. Here is the city distilled; the canvas a host, for our own memories and imaginations