The works of British painters Helen Beard, Boo Saville and New York based artist Sadie Laska unite for the first time in the same exhibition in London at the Newport Street Gallery. This group highlights how colour affects not only the painter’s creation process but also its repercussion on the viewer. At the heart of each room uniformity and differentiation of colour application are the obsessive leitmotiv of the exhibition.
In the huge sanitised white space, the first three rooms introduce Beard, Saville, and Laska simultaneously. I am immersed in each style, each so unique and captivating, that I almost forget the purpose of the exhibition: the use of colour.
While I advance from one artist to the other, I have to consciously remove myself from the content and with a superficial eye take in all the emotions and creativity emanating from the mix of colours. It’s a tricky feat which I believe, makes the experience at Newport Street Gallery even more interesting. There is no denying that colour inhabits each canvas, that’s a given, but can the colour by itself lead beyond the nature of the work?
Beard’s colours act like a maze. The block shades filling the rounded shapes are interlaced, distracting me while I glance at the overall composition. The paintings become suggestive once the mind interacts with the traced contours, often symmetrical and well organised within the frame. Here, the colours act as a filter to ease the viewer into the sexual images depicted by Beard.
Laska’s palette is as loud as Beard’s yet exposed in dynamic and raw patterns made up of faux collages. Usually perceived as layers of different images perhaps of various materials, in this case, the assembled pieces are the colours first and foremost. They do not complete the canvas, they are not add-ons.
It is as if the artist’s only way of adding colour on the canvas was through these external pieces, which when observed from afar cannot be distinguished from the rest of the “original” brushstrokes. Lines, squares, asymmetry, unevenness, resonate with the paintings. Unlike Beard’s works they scream at us, instead of inviting us closer.
Saville’s paintings aspire to a middle ground between the other two room’s energies, visible from the above and below floors.
A sort of respite brought by the gradients, colours flow from one into the other, forming a homogenous soothing mix. Although Saville’s shades could be aggressive on their own, in her paintings, they whisper and suggest calm instead of exerting anything from their more profound meanings.
Did all three artists use colour for a specific reason? Could we go beyond colours and decipher a coded expression of emotions?
A painting from Laska has intrigued my reflexion on this matter. On the first floor, gallery 5, piece #35 Untitled (Pepsi Shape) resonates with Beard’s style. The shapes here are rounded, its details contoured precisely, and the colours distinct from one another. If this painting had been hung next to Beard’s, I probably would not have been able to distinguish their authors. Could this work translate the same emotional state Beard seemingly experienced while painting on her own canvas?
There are probably no definite answers to the trail of questions left unresolved throughout this exhibition. Beyond conversing with the first visible content of each artist’s pieces, the viewers can wander within their own minds and explore the effects on their emotions and perspectives. By linking the colours’ purity to the sensory sensation, through True Colours, I have come closer to the essence of each artist’s discourse.
True Colours: Helen Beard / Sadie Laska / Boo Saville at Newport Street Gallery, London (06 June – 16 September 2018)