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Synesthesium: Benjamin Brett, Stuart Cumberland, Shaan Syed exhibit at Ana Cristea Gallery
Shaan Syed, Stage Left to Stage Right (Burgundy Horizontal to Salmon Horizontal), 2012, oil and industrial filler on canvas, 72 x 64 in (183 x 163 cm).
NEW YORK, NY.- Ana Cristea Gallery presents “Synesthesium” a group exhibition that brings together the work of three London-based artists: Benjamin Brett, Stuart Cumberland and Shaan Syed.

Gesture and color occupy positions of prominence in each of the works on view: from the drawn effect of Cumberland’s hastily “colored in,” stenciled circles to the thick, bold wipes rippling across Syed’s canvases, and the doodled glyphs floating above Brett’s patterned backdrops. The artists share a formal interest in the dissonant connection between erasure and over-painting, between what is covered over and what is overtly displayed. Although the layers appear stitched by hasty sutures, they indicate an essential conflict of effort v. intuition, control v. fluidity. Repetition and incidents of cultivated chance arise from a practice of combinatory play. The viewer is carried into this play of color and pattern -- associations spring to mind from shared cultural spaces and subjective sensory recall. We don’t merely perceive patterns; we create them involuntarily.

Much could be said about the layered art historical references (alluding to the likes of Guston, Oehlen and Rauschenberg) or the engaged debate with painting’s legacy and stature; however, the simple sensory pleasure of viewing is of more vital concern to the works. The speed of the paintings’ creation alludes to a lust, as if release is thrust upon the viewer. Underlying this appearance of ease, we find structures of discipline, defense mechanisms and barriers to our inclusion. If you step back to take in the work, you encounter voids, obscuration of details or even more tangible barriers, such as a curtain blocking the scene in Syed’s Shoegazer Number Eleven. In an effort at control, or perhaps a defiant act of iconoclasm, these works reject our gaze. Turning their back to us.[1] If you step in to see the details, you are suddenly too close to view. You can smell the colors, hear the reverberating details of dots, swipes and tiles echo around the gallery’s white walls, but your vision is inhibited. This oscillation between background and foreground, detachment and intimacy, privacy and blunt performance creates a wealth of associative play that we can’t help but join…or observe from a distance.

Patterns function as a surface to distinguish foreground and background in Benjamin Brett’s non-linear, non-hierarchical narratives. Displacing notions of frame and boundary, the painting as object defines its own parameters of visible. These parameters reveal a space where expectation, interpretation and translation collide. An incidental mark or a discordant color offers a stain recalling the productive marriage of happenstance and decision. Benjamin Brett (b. 1982) lives and works in London. In 2013, he graduated from the Royal College of Art in London. He will be included in the upcoming Thames and Hudson publication, “100 Painters of Tomorrow”.

In the obscure, neologic language of Stuart Cumberland’s canvases, spontaneity translates into repeated imagery, referencing the contemporary tension between handmade and mechanical, printed elements. His ornaments are peopled with visible seams, reminders of the haste of their construction and their fabricated components. While the constructs are loose, even messy, they combine to draft a controlled sublimation. Stuart Cumberland (b. 1970) lives and works in London. Recent solo exhibitions include The Approach, London; Maruani & Noirhomme, Brussels; Bloomberg Space, London. Group shows include Sprüth Magers Projekte, Münich; Camden Arts Centre, London; Gimpel Fils, London; Saatchi Gallery; Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York.

Depending on the angle of observation, a reflection emerges on the surface of Shaan Syed’s thickly painted gradients that prohibits the viewer from entering the work. Both works exhibit a physical movement of wiping out, simultaneously erasing and creating with each sweeping brushstroke. His canvases invite multiple readings: is that a barrier or a receding horizon? Do we witness a stage or merely a curtain pulled over the performance? The answer depends on where you stand, as much as on what you see. Shaan Syed (b. 1977) was born in Toronto and currently lives and works in London. He has exhibited at Galerie Michael Janssen, Berlin; PlugIn ICA, Winnipeg; Brown, London. Group exhibitions include Jerwood Space, London; Bloomberg Space, London; La Salles de Bains, Lyon; S1 Artspace, Sheffield UK; Laurent Delaye, London. Syed received the Elephant Trust Grant UK, the Celeste Art Prize UK and is a recent recipient of the Pollock Krasner Foundation grant for painters. He will be included in the upcoming Thames and Hudson publication, “100 Painters of Tomorrow.”





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