For his first solo exhibition with Poppy Sebire
, James Aldridge presents a selection of large paintings, watercolours and sculptural work. With influences ranging from natural history to heavy metal, the artist continues to explore themes around knowledge, belief and good and evil.
Aldridges expansive canvases unite psychedelia with the arcane. In their animalistic imagery, dense compositions and heterogeneous painterly techniques, there is an explosion of the natural order, whilst the decorative runs amok. The new paintings bring three-dimensional elements to an otherwise graphic sensibility: illusionistic bird illustrations overlay intricate patterns of foliage and silhouetted beasts. The atmosphere can appear violent and disorderly, as in the bloodlike streams of red paint which drip from birds beaks. Imagery from Christian as well as esoteric and occult symbols draws attention to the function of symbolism and the role of superstition. These disparate elements and the interplay between depth and surface, symmetry and asymmetry forge a tension between the real and the fantastic; they invoke different modes of meaning. The paintings form their own language. In addition to natural history field guides, they reference black metal band logos; these are similarly complex, also featuring forms from the natural world. Like Aldridges paintings, they require invested looking and create their own rules of reading.
In Lorraine Daston and Peter Galisons Objectivity, the authors explain how the scientific ideal of objectivity is a modern phenomenon, which supplanted previously privileged ways of knowing. Aldridge is interested in different paradigms of knowledge and their visual manifestations as means to belief. His watercolours reference historical conventions of ornithological imaging, whilst embellishing these with transgressive details and variations, as in his bird-head mandalas. These delicately rendered aberrant conglomerations suggest scientific discovery and classification, and their subversion.
Aldridge lives in the Swedish forest. His recent sculptural series employing birdhouses (holk in Swedish) reflects on the local ecology as well as the ironies of anthropomorphism. The battered old objects take on a talismanic quality in the gallery; engineered by humans and defaced by birds and the elements, they appear as both natural and cultural relics. Through various processes of destruction and restoration, the artist completes the Holks metamorphoses. He links these subversions to the nihilism of black metal: here different models of belief concerning the natural world and within musical subcultures merge. They reveal Aldridges ultimate concern for a belief in images and how that shapes and reflects an understanding of environment and everything around us
and how subjective that can be.
James Aldridge was born in the UK in 1971 and lives and works in Sweden. Recent solo exhibitions have included Gabriel Rolt, Amsterdam (2010); Galería Casado Santapau, Madrid (2009); Suite Gallery, Wellington NZ (2009) and David Risley Gallery, London (2008). Group exhibitions include Apopcalypse Now, Nieuw Dakota, Amsterdam (2011); Art Rotterdam (2011); The New Chapter, Poppy Sebire, London (2010); Second Biennial of The Canary Islands, Santa Cruz de Tenerife (2009); On that which remains, Nassauischer Kunstverein, Wiesbaden (2008); PLUS, Museum Wiesbaden (2007) and Papercut, Voges + Partner Gallery, Frankfurt (2006). In 2007 his painting Cold Mouth Prayer was commissioned for Tate Modern and he has work in several major private collections in the UK, Israel, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabi, Italy and the USA. Aldridge holds an MA from the Royal College of Art and in 1998 was awarded the Rome Scholarship in Fine Art.