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We Like the Taste of Certain Poisons: New Paintings by Richard Graville        

NoHawkers Gallery, Rodhus Studios, 16-30 Hollingdean Road, Brighton

1- 2 October, 2022

A review by Geoff Hands

©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock  All rights reserved.

A second visit in three days to Richard Graville’s exhibition, We Like the Taste of Certain Poisons, a display of new paintings in his studio and in the NoHawkers Gallery situated in the RODHUS complex of studios and workshops in Brighton, enabled a more contemplative experience of this weekend-only exhibition after the busy opening on Friday evening. Not that private views don’t have something to offer, such as hearing other viewers’ opinions and reactions, or for observing behaviour that might affect one’s own experience amongst the art tribe. You may know some of the other visitors and expect them to chat away happily; others tend to slope off at an opportune moment to actually look at some of the artwork. The strangers, like you, behave in much the same way. We might hunt art in packs, gathering the gossip as well as sampling the prey, but the final experience is commandeered by that fascinating engagement with an arrangement of two or three paintings or, more typically, by one work at a time.

For a show of exquisitely-made paintings, so perfectly rendered, the very close scrutiny by most of us in attendance, both on Friday and the Sunday afternoon, was to be expected. These rather wonderful works immediately draw in the eye, and the brain tries to work out how such surfaces have been created with the humble paintbrush, aided and abetted by masking tape for such perfect edges. For those of us who have painted in similar ways, we might have resorted to employing Golden’s excellent GAC 200, which, the product info on Jackson’s Art website tells us, it “promotes cleaner edges of hard-edge techniques. The harder paint film has less ‘pull’ as the masking tape is removed”. Not so with this work. In places the paint is very thinly applied and remains pictorially flat on the woven surface of the canvas or linen, but the colour is consistently opaque, as Graville uses Lefranc Bourgeois’ vinyl Flashe paint in addition to standard acrylic colours. Where there is a subtle raising of the literal surface plane, although not quite deep enough to qualify as ‘relief’, this occurs most often in the black frameworks that appear in most of the paintings on canvas. On closer inspection one notices that these black bands appear matt or alternately, almost silky. We might expect to see the same black in use, but although subtle, the change is clearly perceptible.

In addition to Graville’s use of black and white ‘colours’ the viewer is presented with red, orange, green and two (or possibly three) blues. A banal and prosaic impression might be that these compositions relate to road signs, particularly in the use of black frameworks and rectangular formats. But how we might read these signs is far subtler than the common traffic sign or urban directive. In the exhibition leaflet the artist has explained that, “Humans were once able to navigate and track subtle clues in nature. Now flat signs in primary colours tell us which way to go and what to do. I continue down that path to see where it leads.”

For Graville it has led him into an arena of notions of modernist beauty (of the fashioned object, colour application, material simplicity, perfect surface and visual balance) and a direct engagement with the visual realm that strikes me as elemental, albeit with the aposematic framework of “biological codes to hijack the attention of the viewer” (from the same leaflet). The ‘aposematic’, as usefully explained on a wall mounted information display adjacent to the exhibition room, tells the viewer that animal colouration systems, categorised as ‘aposematism’, inform potential predators that the animal is poisonous, venomous, or otherwise dangerous. All animals (which include us humans), to some extent live (and die) by preventing attack (or not). Even while driving, of course.

Although Graville seeks clarity and lucidity, it may be the case that his ongoing project speculates rather than commands or overtly directs the viewer, as there is no sense of didacticism. ‘We Like the Taste of Certain Poisons’ provides an update of his journey of discovery, conjecture and connection with the literal signs (including colour codes and edges) that affect and constitute our biological perceptions and behaviours (subconsciously rather than knowingly). These new works also provide a non-poisonous taster, as it were, as this body of work is far from dull and deserves to be shown for a longer period of time than a fleeting weekend. It was positively uplifting and invites an audience of many.


Geoff Hands’ first review of We Like the Taste of Certain Poisons

Geoff Hands’ review of the H_A_R_D_P_A_I_N_T_I_N_G exhibition (inc. Richard Graville)-

Richard Graville

Lefranc Bourgeois

Geoff Hands is an art writer and a painter. He is based at the Phoenix Art Space in Brighton, UK. He is currently engaged in writing a collection of ruminations called Painting Studio Strategies, inspired by Eno and Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies. See @paintingstudiostrategies on Instagram

Such data require interpretation, which is a form of code, taking us back to the work of the artist from which one may derive an ‘aesthetic’ form of pleasure - or perhaps displeasure and mystification for some; I could imagine a very mixed response from the punter who expects an obvious narrative or figurative visual language to engage with. In the role of the ‘viewer’ it strikes me that we have to remind ourselves that every form of visual language is a code for some notion of ‘reality’, or more correctly, that we see the code as the only grasp, or construction, of this experience we label as reality.

On his website, Graville explains that:

“Our visual sense has evolved to enable us to survive. Our aesthetic appreciation has co-evolved with our pattern-seeking impulse - here is something that deserves our attention. Art hijacks this response.

Abstract painting has often been construed as a means of depicting what lies behind the illusion (figurative) version of reality. Modernism made claims to universality. I reconsider these ‘universals’ as codes relevant to our biological niche. Along with several other species, we use these to track fitness payoffs. My paintings hijack these codes to engage the viewer. I try to be clear.”