The visionary tendencies and post-modern fantasies of contemporary painting are examined in The Owl Service, which takes its title from Alan Garner’s 1967 'low fantasy' novel of the same name. Garner was one of the influences on the 2011 exhibition The Dark Monarch at Tate St Ives, which outlined a lineage of British art that takes its inspiration from a particular type of mysticism that has its roots in our collective Gothic imagination. Co-curator, Michael Bracewell, in his introduction to the exhibition explained how the 20th century was marked by new developments in technology and mass media, but that Monarch was interested in tracking ‘the shadow of that century’, signposting various relationships between modernism and the occult. Bracewell asserted that no matter how much technology accelerates, there will always be an aspect of art making ‘which will want to look at the mysterious, the enigmatic and that which cannot be explained.’
The Owl Service pays homage and honours these propositions, showcasing seven contemporary painters who play with the metaphysical myths and magic of painting’s alchemical template, unleashing more ghosts from the machine.
Lucy Boyle’s darkly glamorous paintings reflect her interest in the crossover and overlap of religion and the supernatural.
Fascinated by maths, science fiction and folklore, Benjamin Bridges paints landscapes peopled by strange three-dimensional objects, which seem to hover just beyond the realms of probability.
Reality and illusion is core to Lindsey Bull’s practice. Her hypnagogic visions of secret ceremonies and mysterious cloaked figures dislocate the viewer from the rational to a hallucinatory otherland.
Luci Eyers’ edgy dreamlike watercolours are drawn from half remembered moments and idealised natural motifs, replaying some internalised or existential moment of angst.
Stephen Harwood takes inspiration from Derek Jarman’s 1971 Super 8 film Journey to Avebury. The resulting canvases herald a new kind of ‘hymning to Englishness’, one that harbours an occult underpinning.
Daisy Richardson’s paintings describe discernible objects through figurative allusion to create a fictional world where scale and vision is more to do with the landscape of dreams than perceptual reality. Keen to create a new site of (un)-reality as the basis for his paintings,
Isaac Willis dresses up, films himself and then makes paintings from these films, thus revealing the inherent masquerade/magic inherent in both filmic and painting processes.