The Ashmolean Museum
s renowned historical collections are the inspiration for two contemporary artists whose new works are currently on display in the Museum.
The two simultaneous exhibitions in Gallery 8 feature paintings by critically acclaimed British artists Flora Yukhnovich and Daniel Crews-Chubb. The shows open the Ashmoleans new exhibition series Ashmolean NOW, in which UK-based contemporary artists are invited to create new work inspired by the Ashmoleans collections.
Invited to spend time immersed in the collections of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford in 2022, Flora Yukhnovich (b. 1990) was drawn to the Still-Life Paintings Gallery and the floral, fleshy and dark elements that can be found in Dutch flower paintings of the 17th and early 18th century by artists such as Ambrosius Bosschaert, Adriaen Coorte, Clara Peeters and Rachel Ruysch. Through a literal and metaphorical collaging process, archetypical motifs of idealised and controlled beauty are combined with references to the female characters of horror movies such as The Witch, Carrie and Raw. As the artist explains, Flowers are the reproductive organs of plants and the art historical symbol of puberty and virtue. Horror films like The Witch, Carrie and Raw revolve around a central female character who becomes dangerous or monstrous as she hits puberty. The paintings come out of these opposing ideas around puberty, reproduction and the female body.
For this exhibition, Flora Yukhnovich has created a powerful series of dramatic paintings featuring intense red, pink, peach and green tones. Existing in a constantly fluctuating state between abstraction and figuration, these paintings explore ideas surrounding dualities and multiplicities, transcending painterly traditions while fusing high art with popular culture and intellect with intuition.
Daniel Crews-Chubb (b. 1984) took inspiration from the ancient sculptures of deities, mythical creatures and non-human figures found in the Ashmolean, experimenting with their expressions and postures. His monumental, mixed-media paintings feature bold, fantastical figures that are genderless. Crews-Chubb calls them immortals, referencing the fact that throughout history humans have immortalised themselves by building monuments and creating works of art.
Crews-Chubbs abstracted works are created through a laborious process of addition and revision, including drawing, impasto, and collage, and with a mixture of materials from oils to sand and spray paints. The result is energetic, textured paintings with a three-dimensional quality. Despite being informed by religious and mythical figures from ancient history, Crews-Chubbs work is nonetheless concerned deeply with the human condition today: With my work, Im not trying to make something decorative. Im trying to make something that I think is powerful, outward-looking, which makes you ask what it is to be human.
Despite stylistic differences, the work of both artists links inspirations from art history with a lively and contemporary painterly language. It conveys a timeless passion for the medium of painting, its materials and processes, and invites visitors to look at the Museums historical collections afresh.
Dr Lena Fritsch, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Ashmolean Museum, said: Flora's fleshy, visceral and all engulfing painting language can be interpreted in relation to an untamed side of women, which horror films feature in highly aestheticised and exaggerated form. Within the space of her paintings, these gender constructions are abstracted, blurring the dichotomies of pretty/monstrous, pure/obscene, young/old. Daniel's works draw on ancient international sculptures from the Ashmolean's collections. However, the final, abstracted works are far removed from their initial figurative inspirations. His practise expresses a sense of painterly freedom, focussing on gesture, form and colour. Both Flora's and Daniel's paintings convey a strong love for the medium of paint and the creative process of painting.
Dr Xa Sturgis, Director of the Ashmolean Museum, said: Ashmolean NOW aims to generate creative, multi-faceted conversations between the past and present and between artists and audiences. Its a real thrill for the Ashmolean to work with dynamic artists like Flora and Daniel on the first Ashmolean NOW exhibitions. Their impressive pieces show a genuine engagement with the Museums historic collections, reinterpreting Dutch still-life and the ancient world to create something wholly new.
About Ashmolean NOW: Over three exhibitions in the Ashmolean Museums Gallery 8, artists explore various areas of the Museums broad collections, working in different artistic media. Ashmolean NOW features four very different points of view, with Flora Yukhnovich and Daniel Crews-Chubb followed by Pio Abad in February 2024 and Bettina von Zwehl in October 2024. Ashmolean NOW is curated by Dr Lena Fritsch, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Ashmolean Museum.
Flora Yukhnovich (b.1990, Norwich) studied portraiture at the Heatherley School of Fine Art in London and developed her characteristic painterly language as a Fine Art student at City & Guilds of London Art School, where she completed her MA in 2017. Inspired by art historical movements ranging from Rococo to Abstract Expressionism, as well as contemporary imagery on social media or film, her work focuses on forms, colours and gestures, turning figurative inspirations into unique abstracted paintings. At the Ashmolean, Yukhnovich found herself, surprisingly, drawn to the Dutch and Flemish Still Lifes Paintings Gallery. In her new paintings, she explores playfully and critically their relationship with traditional notions of femininity. Yukhnovich is represented by the Victoria Miro gallery.
Daniel Crews-Chubb (b.1984, Northampton) graduated from the Chelsea College of Arts in 2009 before studying at the Turps Art School, which offered a Painters Studio Programme. Crews-Chubb has developed an intensely physical, mixed-media painting style, for which paint is smeared with the fingers, scratched with a stick, glopped on straight from the tube, sprayed from a can, and mixed into sand or pumice gel. The combination of this wild use of materials with historical subject matter is a recurring characteristic of his work. At the Ashmolean, Crews-Chubb was particularly interested in international pre-historic sculptures that depict non-human figures, such as deities. In his Immortals series, he has experimented with their postures and expressions to create his own fantastical figures. Daniel Crews-Chubb is represented by Timothy Taylor gallery and by Roberts Projects.
Flora Yukhnovich x Daniel Crews-Chubb
July 8th, 2023 - January 14th, 2024