Eddie Peake: People
Galleria Lorcan O’Neill, Roma
22 September – 10 November 2018
Review by Ariane Belisle
Identity has long been a subject of artistic investigation. From Vincent van Gogh and Frida Kahlo’s self-portraits to Richard Prince’s depictions of masculinity and Tracey Emin’s sexually charged autobiographical oeuvres, artists have mined this concept of what makes us who we are and often challenged it in their art. This lineage leads to Eddie Peake, a British artist whose most recent exhibition at Galleria Lorcan O’Neill, People, continues to question how we reconcile our own identity as individuals in relation to broader social issues.
As an artist whose brightly hued spray-painted canvases initially come across as playfully light-hearted, Peake also allows a psychological duress to permeate the paintings exhibited. Bringing together fifteen artworks in acrylic, oil paint and spray paint, the show features four distinct series, three of which echo the artist’s previous bodies of work.
Rendered with masking tape and car paint in high gloss lacquered colours, the four Mirror Canvases paintings (Sweet and Loving Embrace, Secret Dancefloor Hand Caress, Nighttime Touch and Sharing Fluids) recall Peake’s Masks and Mirrors, the body of work that arguably established the artist’s career. Compared to the earlier series, these new artworks move towards abstraction. Hence, while Masks and Mirrors had legible words and phrases, the canvases displayed here are less decipherable. Viewed from afar, Sharing Fluids, for example, hints at the outline of a female form while Nighttime Touch loosely depicts the contour of a pointed finger. Yet, as we move closer to the frame, the images once ingrained on our retina dismantle into a matrix of colourful lines and shapes. Likewise, the six small wooden panels from Autoritratto, an ongoing series of self-portraits, also show the masking technique that has become integral to most of Peake’s oeuvre.
Comparatively, the Head/Text paintings are a continuation of a body of work first exhibited at White Cube Bermondsey in London earlier this year. Possessing a psychedelic quality, the groovy profiles depicted in Not Going to Lyingly Tell You I Don’t Feel Mannishly Ashamed and Criticism Ideal Through A Self Reflexive Lens conceal each work’s title while addressing the divisiveness of global socio-political issues.
Finally, the show also presents Cinema Screens, a new series of colossal canvases depicting brightly hued profiles facing each other. The artworks explore the desires and dramas inherent to relationships, whether romantic, sexual, familial, professional, social or cultural. These themes of belonging and identity are reiterated in the titles of the three paintings: A Group of Lovers, Girlfriends and Boyfriends and Talking About the Future.
While People clearly revisits artistic cues from Peake’s past, it is also a marked departure from his previous exhibitions that often showcased his varied practice through performances, video projections, painting, photography, sculpture and large-scale installations. Here, the emphasis is rather on the act of painting itself.
At first, Peake’s canvases seem not to take themselves too seriously but, further considered, they express what it feels like to be alive today. Evoking a playful mood, his practice feels light-hearted, as multi-coloured squiggles impishly dance on the surface of the canvas. Paradoxically, it is these cheerful lines that enable a reassessment of our identity within our community.