Sadie Coles HQ, 62 Kingly Street, London, W1K 2QZ
11 September-2 November 2013
From the Press Release
In his first exhibition at Sadie Coles HQ, Ryan Sullivan presents a series of new large-scale paintings. The exhibition marks the inauguration of Sadie Coles HQ’s new gallery on Kingly Street.
Situated in the heart of the West End, Sadie Coles’ new gallery at 62 Kingly Street is a dramatic 6000-square-foot exhibition space extends across the first floor of a listed nineteenth-century building. Formerly a nightclub, it has been transformed into an expansive and minimal interior flooded by natural light from above and with double-height ceilings throughout. The gallery will provide scope for an ambitious and diverse programme of exhibitions.
The inaugural show at 62 Kingly Street is a selection of new works by American painter Ryan Sullivan - the artist’s first exhibition with Sadie Coles HQ. Forthcoming exhibitions include those by Urs Fischer, Helen Marten, and Jim Lambie. In addition to the main space is a cabinet-style gallery. Here, smaller projects will be mounted in parallel to the main exhibitions, reviving the format of the acclaimed series of ‘SITUATION’ projects mounted by Sarah Lucas above the Sadie Coles HQ’s former premises on New Burlington Place.
62 Kingly Street is the largest site yet occupied by Sadie Coles HQ. Offering views onto Regent Street at one end and Soho at the other, it sits at the intersection of two historic and contrasting quarters of the West End. Sadie Coles HQ has operated from a series of distinctive venues since its foundation in 1997 on Heddon Street - a short distance from the new site - as well as variety of off-site venues throughout London. The gallery will continue to operate from its existing two spaces in Mayfair, 69 South Audley Street and 9 Balfour Mews.
Sullivan’s singular painting style arises from an open-ended process that is focused on the physical properties of his media. Each canvas bears witness to its making - asserting the dynamic movements and mutations of its raw materials. In Sullivan’s studio, the canvases sit parallel to the floor. As he progressively tilts them (a crucial intervention), their contents shift and spill. A subtle interplay between viscosity and gravity therefore drives the progression of each work. He adds layers of spray paint to an unstable base layer, accentuating the lines and rifts that haphazardly develop. Material movement becomes the agent of composition - reinforcing the idea of painting as a temporal entity, and reminding us that ‘painting’ denotes both a process and an outcome.
The dominant medium throughout this new series is spray paint. Spray paint is arguably a hallmark of automated mass production. Flooding the works with a stark luminescence, it removes the artist’s hand from the act of painting. As a readymade, industrially-produced medium, spray paint underscores the idea of each canvas signifying an event beyond Sullivan’s individual calculation. Its distinctive physical qualities make it ideal for capturing the fleeting movements of the underlying paint. It is immiscible in its liquid state, and sits as a fine slick on the wet paint beneath, creating an alternately opaque and translucent carapace.
Sullivan’s works thus achieve a beguiling illusionality by dint of a process that is studiedly materialist. As he has noted: ‘Part of the experience of the painting is reconciling the disconnect between the physical reality of the paintings and the photographic quality.’ (Ironically, that disjunctive quality is impossible to capture in photographs). And yet the ‘physical reality’ is ever clear from the paintings’ spilled-over edges. Evidencing the downward pull of gravity on the materials, these drips provide an insight into the myriad colours and iterations that each canvas has undergone. Countering the impression of ambiguous depth or scale, they moreover flatly re-assert the actual depth and scale of each work.
As with Warhol’s iconic oxidation or ‘piss’ paintings, each of Sullivan’s paintings is simultaneously a process, an image and an abstraction. De-personalised yet expressive, superficial yet illusional, the prevailing medium of spray paint embodies the contradictions - and the volatile physics - of these new works.