Having headed up London’s Serpentine Gallery for 25 years, curator Julia Peyton-Jones found herself suddenly under the glare of a much larger spotlight in 2017, when she became a mother for the first time at 64 years of age. Just eight years earlier, Britain was startled to learn that Suffolk’s Elizabeth Adeney had given birth at 66, after IVF treatments in the Ukraine. Both children are doing well, by the way.
This fascination, admittedly, has little to do with the indisputable fact that Peyton-Jones remains one of the most influential figures in the London art world—or perhaps anywhere. And so a new show under her direction at the Galerie Thaddeus Ropac (an outpost of the Paris and Salzburg galleries of the same name) certainly commands rapt attention. The focus of the exhibition is painting, and it thus carries the certainly pithy title of…A Focus on Painting.
Featured are four artists whose work binds them together mostly via their dedication to the medium. Argentine-Caribe Alvaro Barrington (now living in New York) was called a “rising star” by ArtNet earlier this year, and his recent series Garvey dealt with how migration impacts identity and artistic direction; while Philadelphia-based Dona Nelson‘s materials-centric abstractions have been dazzling critics since the late ’60s, with The New Yorker recently gushing that, “she gives notice that she will do anything, short of burning down her house to bully painting into freshly spluttering eloquence.”
Also featured is Londoner Rachel Jones, who at just 29 may have invented “neo-formism” (we just coined that, btw), with her ability to reimagine human forms into the fantastical and seemingly metaphorical; and finally, 35-year-old, Malaysian-born Mandy El-Sayegh is very much emerging as a deft collagist, who can also effortlessly employ sculpture, silkscreen and installation into her work.
“It is very exciting to look at the work of four painters, from the established to the emerging, and to see how each engages with the medium in widely different ways,” Peyton-Jones enthuses. “Alvaro Barrington has created two new pieces comprising thread, paint and burlap—one of which is made up of numerous parts; Mandy El-Sayegh has conceived an all-embracing installation across the gallery’s walls and floor; Dona Nelson blurs the lines between painting and sculpture; while at the core of Rachel Jones’ seemingly abstract work, the representation of the body is explored through exuberant colors and the textured surface.”
It should be noted that the Mayfair based gallery—just blocks from the Royal Academy—is actually open for physical visits, a hopeful sign for the London cultural community. A Focus on Painting opens today, September 11, at Galerie Ropac London.