The Concept Space is pleased to present ‘Seeking News From Nowhere’ an exhibition of works by British artist Benjamin Deakin. Exploring the notion that the search for a utopian environment is possibly a dystopian one in itself, the artist uses the deconstruction and reconstruction of our depth perception within a space in his paintings to suggest this.
Deakin’s work with its complex composition and blend of environments laced with architectural sensibilities places the viewer on a threshold. This is the main interest of his practice and here lies the contradiction in the quest for the idealised utopia. There is a reference to the work of the nineteenth century English architect, poet and writer William Morris’ novel ‘News From Nowhere’ in the research for the paintings. Exploring the hybrid of the built / artificially constructed and the natural environment at the very intersection which they collide or rather fuse. The suggestion of nature’s struggle and turn against the humanly constructed environment or even its reclamation through ruins is avoided. We are presented with the point at which there is a momentary equal partnership – hybrid, threshold and land of nowhere. This intersection between the urban and the natural is highlighted with Deakin’s signature dissolving effect. It is the re-imagining of a utopia of ruins rather than the expected dystopian viewscape.
The technique and tonal sensibility employed in these works serves to draw in the viewer with a palette of pastel tones, mellow, soft and soothing hues that conjure up a sense of near-neutral yet heightened Romantism of nineteenth century traditional landscape paintings. Even with observations and investigation into the so-called ‘edgelands’ of abandoned railways, industrial scrubland or retail parks, Deakin attempts to dissolve these in his painting by creating spaces with a sense of vulnerability.
In the painting ‘Navigator’ we witness the state of an artificial giant cube juxtaposed against natural rocky surfaces as that very volume dissolves through a secondary plane creating an oscillation in the perceived distance and depth. These conflicting vanishing points lend themselves to Deakin’s continued exploration of thresholds. On the other hand, in ‘Multiplier’ the perception of distance constantly shifts through the destabilisation of the flat illusionary surface. The entire environment seem to be dissolving into a single matter as the interior wasteland ruin merges with the external natural environment. Nature providing the draping melting curtains over the artificial man-made intervention of brick walls. This paradox is a consistent strand in Deakin’s paintings. As seen in previous series where mountain scenes reminiscent of nineteenth century paintings of Yosemite National Park or the Rocky mountains were juxtaposed against debris and gravel piles of the Canadian gold-mines that the artist observed first hand.
Overall, these pictures of hybrid spaces seem to suggest that what is perceived as reality is only a projection of our imagination, alluding to the fact that the quest for Utopia is one that can probably never be realised.
One might experience and interpret these paintings as having a sense of fairytale and a grand theatrical staging, an environment anticipating a narrative based on William Morris’ idealised land of nowhere (a fantasy, perhaps?).
ABOUT BENJAMIN DEAKIN
Benjamin Deakin (b.1977) lives and works in London. He received an MA in Fine Art from Central Saint Martins in 2006.