France-Lise McGurn: Percussia
Simon Lee Gallery, London
24 January 2020 - 22 February 2020
The history of figurative painting demonstrates waves of periodic rejection. The magnification of antiquity’s strict principles performed by the Neo-classical movement arose in opposition to the pastel tinted vanity of the Rococo. Impressionism’s gestural interpretations of light dismissed the academic naturalism of Realism. Fast forward to the new millennium, it seemed that Contemporary Art (excluding a small handful of artists) had wholly abandoned figurative painting in favour of found objects and shock culture. However, history’s sweet wheel of rejection brings hope for the canvas, paint and figure. The best part? Women artists - such as France-Lise McGurn, Lisa Brice, Sanam Khatibi, Jesse Mockrin and Flora Yukhnovich - are leading the way and they’re referencing, retelling and subverting history of art’s predominantly male canon.
Best known for her site-specific wall murals and large energetic compositions, France-Lise McGurn has exhibited extensively across the UK, including a solo show at Tate Britain in 2019. Her debut exhibition with Simon Lee Gallery immerses the viewer in a figurative landscape. The contemporary space is transformed from white clinical walls to a symphony of warmth and colour. Swathes of idealised bodies in states of undress explore the sensual intimacy between strangers. Although inspired by the classical nudes of antiquity, her figures are compellingly metropolitan. Staring outward through apathetic eyes her figures dismiss the languid poses of the past. The men and women are caught between movement - gesturing with their hands, dancing, smoking and crouching on heeled shoes.
“Individually the figures are quiet and subtle, symbols of the interiority of the body and self, while collectively we see a congregation of figures evoking a sense of belonging and power.”
Simon Lee Gallery
Influenced by Glasgow’s late-night dance culture McGurn describes the title of her show Percussia, a derivative of the word percussion, as a ‘sensual term’. Rather than depicting a direct narrative, the lyricism and femininity of her figures attempt to embody an emotion. Perhaps its the feeling you have when dancing amongst strangers, gazing across a crowded room, or walking down a busy street. Although the majority of McGurn’s characters appear as archetypes or ‘stand ins’ for a larger concept, touchingly, references of her young daughter appear on the walls in the form of a round bellied, cherub-esque child.
Demonstrating a skilled ability in draftsmanship, McGurn’s linear works are painted with the speed and virility of a preparatory sketch. Each wash of colour lightly obscures the remnants of discontinued ideas and mistakes. Successfully she rejects the contrived hierarchies of art by energetically raising the act of drawing to canvas. Using materials pertaining to urban culture, such as aerosol spray and marker pen, she creates a balanced conversation between her underdrawings and final compositions. Executed in a seemingly effortless manner McGurn playfully utilises the stubborn qualities of each medium to her advantage. Each layer becoming an echo of the artist’s hand and process.
France-Lise McGurn’s intoxicating paintings transcend time, finding a welcome balance between the classical and the contemporary. Whole afternoons could be committed to visually unravelling the layers of figurative gestures and clouds of colour. Finishing on Saturday 22nd February 2020, this exhibition should not be missed!
France-Lise McGurn: https://www.simonleegallery.com/artists/237-france-lise-mcgurn/
Lisa Brice: https://www.stephenfriedman.com/artists/lisa-brice/
Sanam Khatibi: https://sanamkhatibi.com
Jesse Mockrin: https://www.mockrin.com
Flora Yukhnovich: https://www.florayukhnovich.com