Wed 5 Apr 2023 to Fri 28 Apr 2023
Artist: Andrew Maughan
Jack Bell Gallery presents a solo show of new works by Andrew Maughan. This is the artist's first exhibition with the gallery.
This series of paintings centre around an ambiguous hooded protagonist, pictured looming in vivid landscapes. The character’s form has echoes in a host of visual references, from Westerns and outlaws like the Zodiac serial killer, who wore a mask and suit of his own design, to film noir, The Simpsons, and the paintings of Sidney Nolan, Edvard Munch and Philip Guston.
Maughan is interested in fear as a tool of politics, and the ways in which fear of the other is instrumentalised in conservative approaches to immigration and societal change. Such anxiety, which often coalesces around external markers of identity such as the hoodie or burqa, is proliferated by politicians and amplified by a media hungry for clickbait.
The figure in these paintings is pictured at a distance from society: immersed in the sublime beauty of the natural world, lurking above the city on a still night, and clad in cargo gear, preparing for doomsday. The result is both menacing and innocuous. His blank eyes are directly from the canvas, an act inspired by Bertolt Brecht's ‘estrangement effect’ (Verfremdungseffekt), a mode of alienating the viewer by breaking the fourth wall. While eyes contribute to the illusion of a figure, their removal reveals the mechanism and materiality of the painting, and renders its artifice undeniable.
What is it about masks and loneliness? The obvious answer is that they offer relief from exposure, from the burden of being seen—what is described in the German as Maskenfreiheit, the freedom conveyed by masks. To refuse scrutiny is to dodge the possibility of rejection, though also the possibility of acceptance, the balm of love. This is what makes masks so poignant as well as so uncanny, sinister, unnerving. […] Masks amplify the way in which skin is a barrier or wall, acting as a marker of separation, singularity, distance. They are protective, yes, but a masked face is also frightening. What lies behind it? Something monstrous, something awful beyond bearing.
Olivia Laing, 'The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone'
Maughan was born 1987 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK. He is a graduate of the Royal Academy Schools and is currently based in London.