, in association with English Heritage, is presenting The Consequences of Play, a series of six epic paintings by British artist Daniel Crews-Chubb relating to Wellington Arch, Apsley House and its environs and inspired by Peter Paul Rubens painting The Consequences of War (1638/9), which allegorically depicted Europe in the aftermath of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). Commissioned by Ferdinando II de Medici, Rubens employed numerous references, both contemporary and ancient, to illustrate the dire state of the continent after one of the longest and most brutal wars in human history where fighting, famine and disease claimed more than 8 million casualties. Holding up a mirror in equally testing times, Crews-Chubb has turned the themes in Rubens masterwork on their head and reinterpreted them within todays context and through his own artistic lens:
History is never one story, it is forever retold, reformed and recontextualised. For this show I was very aware of the context of the venue, and I wanted to explore themes relating to war, victory and heroism. I started to look at art depicting war from the beginning of time until now, looking at it from a purely visual perspective, dismissing any narrative. Then I arrived at Rubens and his painting The Consequences of War. Rubens was the perfect inspiration for this show, as in his paintings in the melee of man and beast the narrative becomes unclear. You forget that you are looking at a depiction of war because the movement, energy and colour take over.
The six paintings Ive made for Wellington Arch convey stances, actions and characters associated with the war theme. Yet in looking at artifacts from different eras, cultures and perspectives I found beauty in a subject that we usually associate with horror and devastation.
Crews-Chubb's paintings combine powerful visual archetypes, both contemporary and historical, taking from myth and legend and other subject matter oft addressed by artists, common threads within the human experience and storytelling. Flowers, mythical people and beasts, the nude, the tree, acrobats, dancers, and portraits are all rendered with a raw and organic additive painting process that involves using his canvas structure like an ever-evolving collage, conceptually and physically. If dissected, the paintings architecture would reveal these numerous iterations, thoughts, and actions, that led to the final state of rest.
This repetition of figurative motifs also becomes a vehicle for exploring the act of painting itself, utilising a repertoire of marks that are worked and reworked. Although figurative when taken in the whole, up close they become remarkably abstract, and the eye is drawn to the raw physicality of their making. He uses oils, acrylics, spray paint, sand, charcoal, and pastel with abandon on rough, stretched, and re- stretched canvases that he often scrapes back and over-paints many times. Corrections are brutal, collaging further canvas and assorted material on top of past imagery to edit and proceed quickly, retaining spontaneity in the development of his ideas. The paintings are at once the product of their own layering and time-worn physical history whilst remaining dynamic and gestural; a patinated record of progress and recession. With their reference to historical figurative parallels, both abstract and figurative, we experience a kind of displaced memory we cant quite place.
Crews-Chubb employs many strategies for bringing these disparate elements of interest together. For example, the Chariot in The Consequences of Play 3 echoes the sculpture created by Adrian Jones on top of the arch that stands proudly above the exhibition. The statue, the largest bronze sculpture in Europe, depicts the Angel of Peace descending on the 'Quadriga' - or four-horsed Chariot - of War. Crews-Chubb uses this motif to, in a sense, drag his multiple characters through time. The paintings capture time in its many guises, but this notion is broad, fuzzy, and fluid, skirting past, through and around the definition. With the aplomb of an amateur anthropologist, he searches for the authentic, the raw and the unrefined, skating in tandem with the history of art and mark making, from cave painting to expressionism and filtering this through his own existence within the digital age.
Characters are introduced and reintroduced, one feeding the next. Ancient gods and goddesses vie with Instagram portrayals of femininity and 80s gaming characters. These are his own history paintings, which have landed in the hallowed space of Wellington Arch, a monument which itself has been made and unmade. Built between 18257 and originally intended as an outer entrance to Buckingham Palace, it stood facing the Hyde Park Screen, moving to its present position in the 1880s. Its original design was never complete. The original giant statue of the Duke of Wellington, which was erected on top of it in 1846, was also replaced in 1912 by the Landmark Quadriga sculpture that now crowns the arch. The venue seems uniquely relevant to showcase this exciting body of work.
--Toby Clarke, June 2021.