Frank Laws’ Dwellings exhibition at Dalston’s Print House Gallery is a compelling and unique show tucked away in the upcoming arts hub of the East End on Ashwin Street. Demonstrating its increasing ability to put on worthy, singular exhibitions whilst supporting local artists and organizations, the Print House is proving itself as a gallery to take note of, autonomous of the hype the area attracts.
Inspired by his admiration for the skill of the bricklayer, and for the buildings he finally constructs — something which Laws observed first hand while working as a labourer — Laws' meticulously detailed paintings depict buildings, seen from behind windows, or peering in from close-up or obscured viewpoints, eerily stripped of human or animal presence.
The works exhibited elucidate their theme incisively; looking on Laws’ beautifully rendered works, we are reminded first of the often overlooked, but recently resurgent, appreciation of craftsmanship and the skill involved in manual labour. The obsessive attention to detail and structure within Laws’ paintings manifest into a reflection of the craft – form leading you to contemplate the buildings they pay homage to. As you continue to look on, you begin to sense the claustrophobia, kept as you are as an observer, trapped on the inside looking out, perhaps a reference to Laws’ analogous position as labourer. This in turn gives the paintings a sense of self-deprecation and almost melancholy, that inspires a kind of empathy rarely rendered in paintings of the inanimate. The feeling of being overwhelmed by the built environment, somehow constricted by its density, is a dichotomy perfectly balanced by the admiration Laws clearly has for his subject; human life may be absent from the scenes before us, but it is implied in the warmth of the colour palette.
This is a very tightly structured show—without the aid of written materials, the selected works bring us directly to the heart of the matter, taking us carefully and precisely through its processes. It’s a visual treat that is wholly satisfying.
-- Charlotte Jansen
All images courtesy the artist.
Images: Frank Laws, Front Room, ink, watercolour & acrylic on paper, 70x100cm; Frank Laws, Her Window, ink, watercolour & acrylic on paper, 70x100cm.