Jonathan Wateridge
Enclave

Pace London / Heni

14 October – 13 November 2016

Pace London is delighted to announce Enclave, an exhibition of new paintings by Jonathan Wateridge. The exhibition will be on view at HENI, 6-10 Lexington Street, from 14 October to 13 November 2016. 

In his first exhibition with Pace London and HENI, Wateridge presents his most expressive and personal body of work to date. As a starting point for the series, the artist constructed a large scale set of his childhood garden in Zambia and then worked with actors to develop the imagery for his paintings. Enclosed in an apparent world of poolside suburban sunshine, Enclave points to a protected yet fictionalised space that references both the artist’s childhood memories of a lost past juxtaposed with the wider issues of the West’s role in our post-colonial world. 

These new works represent an evolution in Wateridge’s painting practice. Initially the works appear as a realist depiction of the scene at hand but the wide variance of mark making and focus on surface, means that, on closer inspection, their verisimilitude begins to break down. As a result, the materiality of the paint comes to the fore. This serves as both a celebration of the painterly and a subtle reminder to the viewer that this is an entirely fabricated environment. The interplay of the figure paintings with the more formal works of the surrounding garden wall – a leitmotif that runs throughout the exhibition – also places an emphasis on the language of painting as much as narrative or social connotations. 

The works depict everyday scenes such as sunbathing or lying post-dip on the wet poolside, sharing a drink on the patio or children playing with the family dog. However, through Wateridge's orchestrated control of the environment, their inherent normality creates a world that becomes increasingly strange and unfamiliar. This subsequent sense of unease and daylight disquiet also hints at the larger issues at work behind the halcyon façade. 

In paintings such as Swimmer, or Pool, the reclining figures have echoes that range from the Jonestown massacre, to filmmaker John Carpenter. Cinematography is further explored with allusions to Frank Perry’s 1968 film The Swimmer, which charts the suburban odyssey of a man through a world to which he no longer has access. For Enclave, the artist recasts the all American actor Burt Lancaster as a young African man thereby creating a new set of loaded and political associations. 

Literary references are embedded within the paintings, in particular the writing of the Argentinian author Adolfo Bioy Cesares and his short story The Invention of Morel, where a castaway finds himself trapped on an island uncannily populated by people he can see but who remain unaware of his presence. He moves around them “simultaneously, almost in the same places, without colliding”. 

There is a similar haunted quality within Enclave, with its white denizens perhaps being merely ciphers of a nostalgic past that no longer exists. At the same time, the African swimmer suggests the spectre of a colonial history that haunts that nostalgia, his contemporary form and steady gaze challenging the West's lingering sense of entitlement. In Enclave, the artist has conjured up an ambiguous world that attempts to unravel what might be termed ‘a politics of memory’, a strategy that is both personal and political in its reading.