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Artist of the week
John Workman

John Workman is a London-based artist whose work is both conceptually rigorous and visually appealing. LondonArt has a number of his works in the collection, which represent the gradual development of his increasingly sophisticated ideas. These include earlier works such as "City of Reeds" made in 1992 to the more recent "Inshore Waters" created in 2010. Whilst earlier work played with adding textural elements such as ash and and sand to traditional oils, his recent work still plays with materials in a painterly way but by utilising extra supports such as glass and additional types of technology such as lightboxes.

Workman has exhibited widely in Britain, Spain and America. One person London shows include those at the Post Gallery Clapham, the Taylor Gallery Highgate Hill, and the Vestry and DFWT Gallery both in Brixton. Further afield, he has shown at the Oxford Playhouse and Galeria El Cep, and Galeria Ataulfo, both in Barcelona. Finally, other notable venues the other side of the Atlantic include the Shoe-String Gallery in New Jersey and the Michael Martin Gallery in San Francisco. He also participates regularly in curated group exhibitions across the country.

His practice encompasses fine art, mural painting and interior design. Many of his smaller works are spin offs or sketches for larger pieces. He often uses wallpaper as both a ground to paint on but also as a material for gallery interventions. His paintings may be described as illusionist, creating optical and trompe l'oeil effects. He has even wallpapered trees in public parks! Works such as "Hidden Butterfly" and "Circles" explore the briefest, driest of paint interventions deftly creating spatial phenomena. In "Dog Rose" there is a clever, humorous juxtaposition of figure and ground. Workman maintains that "...things produced casually, almost accidentally, can have a lightness of touch, an unpredictability that more considered works lack."

Sources of inspiration include drawings and watercolours made on holiday. John states " Often I leave my camera behind and take my sketch book with me instead, so as to make myself feel more like a 19th century traveller than a contemporary tourist." This "harmless fantasy" as he calls it might also be seen as connected - via the idea of the Grand Tour - to his more recent pre-occupation with re-creating Romantic Landscapes through complex optical trickery. "Inshore Waters" and "Romantic Landscape" are composed of black painted silhouetted trees against dusky moonlit waters. The landscape is painted on glass which somehow created a shallow 3D space which feels somehow different to viewing a straightforward oil painting on canvas: Workman's painting processes ensure that as viewer, one is made aware of the reality of the picture plane itself. So in addition to being sucked into the painted space by illusion or the appeal of the subject matter, one's gaze is pushed out again to appreciate the sublety of the construction of the actual painting.

"Swans in the Park" made in 2008 portrays a Gainsborough-like couple strolling by a lake with a bridge in the distance. The couple are framed by a rococo surround which, edged in gold leaf, cleverly appears to catch the sunlight. It is as if we are seeing the habitual picture frame in negative, much like the antiquated processes of producing an old photograph in a bath of developing fluid. Yet simultaneously, we seem to be voyeurs sitting in a birdwatcher's hide. Workman's focus on the visual is satisfyingly explored across the concept of the artwork, its execution and the very materials by which it is composed.

 

Kodak Cathedral
Kodak Cathedral
£ 850

Tivoli
Tivoli
£ 660