25 September 2006
Sacred + Profane
Paintings by Keith West at Gallery 47
47 Great Russell Street
Opposite the British Museum
7 - 18 November 2006.
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In his latest exhibition of paintings with the title Sacred + Profane, Keith West further develops both themes: Night Garden series from the 2005 show; the solitary man kneeling in desperation in the first, observed by a shrouded figure in the second, to which is added a replacement third image: In the previous set, the third painting was an arrest scene, humorous in mood and smaller in scale: The replacement image, Flight from the Night Garden, depicting a figure leaping naked out of the garden - and also the painting - with his bed sheet billowing behind him.
The Flight painting is twinned with another set of paintings which might be described as Eden and After; a diptych of Adam and Eve shows the moment Eve and a companion-piece to the Flight - Expulsion from the Garden in which a heavily pregnant Eve and desolate Adam are driven from Eden. The third painting, Cain and Abel, depicts Cain screaming at the lifeless body of his brother; in the distance Abel's sacrifice is consumed by a roaring fire, whereas Cain's offering smoulders, rejected.
In addition to a set of paintings based on Shakespeare's Tempest is an image based on Marlowe's Faustus. It is a deceptively straight forward narrative painting with the title 'Was this the face that launched a thousand ships...' Faust / Marlowe falls into the void as Mephistopheles draws back a curtain to reveal Helen of Troy, with a battleship floating on a sea of molten lava firing a salvo. The battleship's number is LHOOQ - a sly reference to Marcel Duchamp's reinterpretation of the Mona Lisa. Perhaps this is a clue to West's work - a crafty interpretation of traditional themes interpreted in modern art idioms.