Phoebe Unwin
An image from Phoebe Unwin: Distant People and Self-Soothing Objects at Wilkinson Gallery

Rhapsodies of colour usually characterise the work of painter Phoebe Unwin, but a series of new work on display at Wilkinson Gallery marks a departure from the 26-year-old’s signature style.

The artist, who has been shortlisted for the Max Mara Art Prize for Women, used only sprayed black ink of varying density, occasionally scrubbing or massaging the black pigment. The resulting images resemble a type of pre-photography, using layers of sensory data.

The open space in the pastoral scenes is suggestive of the body melting into the summer heat, lost in the breeze and scents of memory; while the smaller paintings touch on an internal and absorbing relationship to music.

As the viewer’s eye shifts from the back through to the mid and foreground of the paintings, it creates a filmic effect, a slow revealing of details coming into focus, satisfyingly collecting into a single image.

Unwin maps cognitive space in her work. “At the core of this work is my continued interest between material, mark and subjects of sensory experience – pursuing a kind of invented figuration,” she says.

Francis Bacon spoke of “the speed of paint” through which an artist can direct the viewer’s attention, control detail, sensory load or meaning. These works on show certainly have that slow mystery to them.

Powdery, smoky, floating, the solarised silhouettes of grass or flowers shine from the field of energised spray paint, while the worked porous surfaces of the clay board and raw canvas add a softer touch.

Phoebe Unwin: Distant People and Self-Soothing Objects is at Wilkinson Gallery, 50-58 Vyner Street, E2 9DQ until 22 November
wilkinsongallery.com

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