10 September to 29 September 2019
In these new works Alan Ibell builds on an ongoing interest in the canvas as a confining space, in which figures and objects are fixed over the course of the painting process, with the white space of their surrounds a tantalising echo of the white walls of the gallery in which the works hang.
Aviary explores this idea through two recurring motifs of confinement: one, the caged bird; and two, the book in which the bound pages contain a finite number of words and thus ideas. In Bird (+Final Notice) and the threeEnclosure paintings, the motifs can appear at first glance merely illustrative, demanding little more of the viewer than to notice the parallels between the confining lines of the cage’s bars or the books’ covers and the defined edges of the works’ frames. Displayed in conjunction with the larger works featuring figures, however, these smaller works offer possibility alongside fixity: a bird in a cage can always be freed; a book can be interpreted in a multiplicity of different ways. The larger works expand on this sense of possibility, showing the bird freed (or prior to capture?) and gesturing towards the multiplicity of interpretation with their oblique titles. Ibell describes his process as the refinement of figuration to create the barest suggestion of narrative, drawing on myth and archetypal imagery. The presence of the winged bird is an homage to the winged angels and dove-bodied Holy Spirits of Renaissance Italian masters, whose influence on Ibell can be seen most clearly in his colour palette.
Aviary has at its heart the archetype of the bird in part because the bird’s communion with both land and sky echoes the type of experience Ibell’s paintings construct for the viewer: a dual inhabiting of the space of the painting and the space of the gallery.