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Goldfish, Penzance July 08
This exhibition, called simply 'Paintings', brings a series of strange, evocative and compulsive figures into being. Litten's freedom is glorious. He defies rather than defines, his visual narratives, if written might be the equivalent of Kerouac's unpunctuated texts, not in their genre but in their breaking of convention. His wit and questioning is still there but with a greater confidence, the work is not only more sizeable in stature, it has a stronger certainty.
In the first room at the Goldfish we come across 'Love' (picture above top) – two grey green figures with a sea of grass between and under them. His face touching her, his arm on hers while she looks out, body turned, but their eyes, heads and pelvis level. A tempo of differences and similarities.
On an adjoining wall is 'Sitters' – two figures with bulbous bodies placed upon a settee; red lace effected onto the painting. The couple's feet are on a carpet, on a separate board: a disembodied phrase seen repeated within several works. The woman has pendulous breasts and they both have distended stomachs, whilst their given heads are tiny with sharp teeth and alert faces.
Then we come to the first of the portraits of which there are at least eight. This one is 'No.5' (picture above left side), and it is a journey of pinks, corals, reds, flowers and lace leading to a woman with eyes closed: a sitter in repose, mouth small and pink, as if words and sounds are blurred in the fruit flower smudge. 'Portrait No. 4' is a simple study; one can almost feel a tangible breeze in the blue background or be reminded of the blue of countless bathrooms.
Going up the stairs one finds 'Portrait No. 3'; a strange melancholic study of a woman, her face reflective, eyes closed. Her yellow blonde hair, like straw, heavily textured onto the painting adding an outer dimension seemingly at odds with the inner world experienced by her.
Turn into the back room and one encounters 'Portrait No. 1'; an amazing hybrid of blues (above top right side). There is something like a séance to this painting, as if we are looking at a clairvoyant, or in fact a deceased person put into position for a painted epigraph. 'Portrait No. 6' (above below left side) is like half man half frog; some bizarre, skew-whiff, amphibious creature with a mutated blob face.
The large 'Muted Progress' (picture above top left side) is akin to the much smaller 'Hoodies' on the next flight of stairs. The arms and hands fall into disembodied phrasing, skeletal and strange. This could be two other-worldly youths in a classroom, clad in cowls, or 'The Scream' in repose.
'Two Way' (above below right side) is possibly the most impressive piece in this room. Again the sharp teeth; especially razor like and jagged on the woman. No arms are evident, and the lower bodies are anarchically at odds from the upper bodies, cast onto separate boards.
In the large front room is 'Dog' (picture above right side), a large work with lime green background. Litten's wit and questions are all there: the jumping black dog and the jumping white man, but who is mimicking who? 'Protagonist' nearby portrays two strangely formed people in shell-suit purple, split across two boards. She riding upon his back looking ecstatic, one arm over head, eyes closed. Him, with a small anal mouth, and eyes wide open.
Meanwhile 'Mutualism' is a gothic Munch-like black on blue. The two figures merge into one powerful force, one entity, one body. Their faces are looking towards the space between but not at each other. Maybe they are a team, a professional power couple satisfied with their mutual opinions.
Andrew Litten lets go but implores that you do not. There is no polite society in Litten's visual novella nor is there an overt 'tell it all' culture. His narratives are off road but you know you will have an interesting time following them.