Michael Werner Gallery, London is pleased to present Interior, an exhibition curated by Andrew Bonacina.
Interior is conceived as a gathering, convened in the grand yet domestic rooms of Michael Werner Gallery. Each work a portrait in one sense or another, they share a charged intensity driven by a desire to capture the interior lives of their subjects, and in so doing come to read as portraits of interiority itself. Navigating spaces simultaneously bodily, psychological and architectural, the exhibition will feature new paintings, sculptures and ceramics by a multi-generational group of artists, many of whom are connected through webs of friendship. New and recent works by Kai Althoff, Nairy Baghramian, Enrico David, Jake Grewal, Christina Kimeze, Florian Krewer, Andy Robert and Willa Wasserman will be brought into dialogue with historic works by painters including Gwen John, Francis Picabia, Anita Steckel, Félix Vallotton and Édouard Vuillard. The works in Interior revel in an atmosphere of fraught intimacy that emerges only in the mire of knowing and being known.
Gwen John is the exhibition’s point of departure. Her quietly intense studies of a small group of sitters lay bare her intimate relationships and a longing to unearth truths. Like the rooms they inhabit, her bodies become enclosures, revealing and deflecting what lies within. Through repetition and a spare painterly technique that appear to make the sitter and the room appear as one, John created portraits in which subjectivity is suffused in every detail, at once present and ineffable.
The artists in Interior pursue their subjects with similar searching and range of formal gestures. In his translucent paintings Julien Nguyen builds worlds around his muse, returning insistently to his subject in ways that incrementally reveal his inner world. Gilbert Lewis creates intensely empathic works of subjects he encountered through his role as an art therapist; two tender portraits of his recurring subject Tony offer a glimpse into a relationship that deepened and evolved through the act of sitting.
In the gallery’s Winter Garden, paintings and sculptures by Enrico David, Édouard Vuillard, Christina Kimeze and Jake Grewal limn the architectural threshold between inner and outer space. A new sculpture by David takes the form of a lightning rod, channeling its electric force through a double-headed character that folds in on itself. Intimist painter Édouard Vuillard weaved his sitters into the domestic fabric of the spaces they occupied. Marcelle Aron seated in the Greenhouse at Ormesson, 1902, sees Vuillard’s subject shimmer and retreat into a warm white light.
Willa Wasserman’s ethereal portraits of herself and a close circle of friends are painted on metal, their fugitive surfaces rich with observational detail yet leaving the subjects out of reach. Sitters fracture, multiply and dissipate under the gaze of Félix Vallotton and in a new work by Frank Auerbach, their boundaries softening in the process of excavation. As in John’s portraits which her subjects become inextricably woven into space, in works by Nairy Baghramian, Anne Low, Walter Price, Raphaela Simon and Mary Stephenson, subjects collapse almost entirely into architecture and its furnishings, as if consciousness has escaped the body and settled in the rooms and chambers they inhabit.
Kai Althoff (b. 1966), Frank Auerbach (b. 1931), Nairy Baghramian (b. 1971), Enrico David (b. 1966), Jake Grewal (b. 1994), Gwen John (1876 – 1939), Christina Kimeze (b. 1986), Stanislava Kovalcikova (b. 1988), Florian Krewer (b. 1986), Janette Laverrière (1909 – 2011), Gilbert Lewis (b. 1945), Hilary Lloyd (b. 1964), Anne Low (b. 1981), Victor Man (b. 1974), Julien Nguyen (b. 1990), Christodoulos Panayiotou (b. 1978), Francis Picabia (1879 – 1953), Walter Price (b. 1989), Andy Robert (b. 1984), Raphaela Simon (b. 1986), Austin Osman Spare (1886 – 1956), Anita Steckel (1930 – 2012), Mary Stephenson (b. 1989), Angus Suttie (1946 – 1993), Félix Vallotton (1865 – 1925), Édouard Vuillard (1868 – 1940), Willa Wasserman (b. 1990), Lionel Wendt (1900 – 1944).