Thomas Hutton / Clementine Keith-Roach / Christopher Page
“Allegories are, in the realm of thoughts, what ruins are in the realm of things.”
In The Origin of German Tragic Drama (1924-25), Walter Benjamin develops his nuanced conception of allegory through the Baroque German ‘Mourning Plays’. Allegory for Benjamin is not like the symbol or like language, it does not deliver meaning in a flash of understanding. Allegory is more a relic or hieroglyph, a fragment of the past that haunts the present. “[In] allegory the observer is confronted with the facies hippocratica [deathly face] of history as a petrified primordial landscape.”
The work of the three British artists, Thomas Hutton, Clementine Keith-Roach and Christopher Page has something of this deathly face. The ancient history of form haunts their work, just as it haunts the present: in its contemporary collapse, its flattening, its arbitrariness. In Thomas Hutton’s work space, often in architectural form, reappears as frozen image, the hardness of stone becomes polymer skein, habitat collapses into theatre. Clementine Keith-Roach exhumes typologies of art long abandoned, here taking the Victorian mantel-sculpture and filling the place of its features (feet, pedestal and figure) with casts of contemporary plastic ephemera. These parts cohere into something like reliquaries. Christopher Page’s paintings withdraw into themselves – they are paintings of paintings, or frames at least, in which classical and modernist forms can be glimpsed as if from a distance.
The perpetual neoclassicisms of Western history are at times mournful and others melancholic. Freud’s essay “Mourning and Melancholia” (1917) describes mourning as the painful, though ultimately healthy, coming to terms with loss, while melancholia is a pathological state in which the lost object is internalised and punished for its abandonment. The three artists in this exhibition are all English and live and work in Athens, but are not neoclassicists. Their work does not privilege the ancient over the modern or contemporary – rather they amplify these superimpositions and contort the dialectics that inhere in visuality. Their mourning is playful.
Thomas Hutton (b. London, 1983) completed an MFA in Sculpture from Yale University (2012) and an MA in Architectural History from The University of Edinburgh (2006). Before moving to Athens in early 2016 he lived in Rome. His work has been included in group exhibitions at Fondazione Memmo (Rome), Kunsthaus Amersfoort (Netherlands), and the Averard Hotel (London). He has had recent solo exhibitions at Unit9 (London), Sushi Bar Gallery (NYC), Hunter/Whitfield (London) and Joni Levy (Zurich). He has a second exhibition forthcoming at Hunter/Whitfield in April and will be included in group exhibitions at LA MOCA (Los Angeles) in January 2018 and the Barrick Museum (Las Vegas) in early 2019.
Clementine Keith-Roach (b. 1984) lives and works between Athens and the UK. Her work encompasses both set design and sculpture, and the intersection of these two realms is what guides her promiscuous blurring of objects of use with a purely aesthetic dimension. She designs sets for theatre and fashion houses, and has recently started showing her artwork in gallery contexts, for which she has upcoming exhibitions in Los Angeles and London.
Christopher Page (b. 1984, London) lives and works between Athens and the UK. He is a painter who works on large and small scales, making canvas and panel paintings whose surfaces are rendered illusory, and installations that use paint in different ways to derealise their architectural context. Page’s work begins with the notion of framed space and as his practice expands he continues to analyse and problematise the inside and outside of that frame, especially with respect to the ways in which light (and its surrogates) reveal and conceal. He has an MFA in painting from the Yale School of Art (USA) and a BA in painting from Central St Martins (UK). His work has been shown recently at Para Site (Hong Kong), Hunter/ Whitfield Gallery (London), Lord Ludd (Philadelphia), The Averard Hotel (London), Instituto Inclusartiz (Rio de Janeiro), Sushi Bar (New York) and Hannah Barry Gallery (London) as well as at art fairs internationally with LAMB Arts. Page has participated in artist residencies including Instituto Inclusartiz in Brazil and the Container Artist Residency 01, which takes place on container ships around the world. His first solo museum exhibition opens in December 2017 at the Museu de Arte Moderna in Rio de Janeiro.