Steven Asquith’s series of 14 new drawings hardly espouse a conventional reading of landscape. The black chalkboard enamel ‘storm clouds’, Posca pen ‘fumes’ and tiny pencil-and-ink ‘bubblegum acid rain’ that comprise Storm Concepts paint a tumultuous, abstracted vista of the contemporary experience.
Landscapes, however, they are. “I wanted to use nature as a metaphor for our contemporary psychological states,” says Asquith, one of the founding directors of respected gallery Block Projects. “Each of these little storms are a take on our current environment and nature, but also a reference to the great Western tradition and history of landscape painting and artists like Turner, who would use the skies to display emotional turmoil. By using contemporary materials, this work kind of adapts that idea to evoke the schizophrenic nature of contemporary, urban life.”
It’s a quality that resonates throughout Storm Concepts. Indeed, the strong cloud motifs that dominate Asquith’s works prove far more complex than they first appear. With proximity, layers of intricate pencil webbing and minute ink textures reveal themselves; swirls of colour entrap clusters of Posca markings, revealing – as the artist puts it – “unique psychological and ideological layers.”
But according to Asquith, who has worked with the prestigious Gagosian Gallery in London, Exit Art in New York and co-founded The Ship Gallery artist-run initiative in London, his practice is grounded in a far more primal sensibility. “To me, art’s about what you can do with the things you have in your hands,” he offers. “It’s about mark-making and drawing and painting as much as any other academic idea that’s holding it all together. Art exists in the alchemy between the artist and the materials. It’s about the variation in the mark-making and drawing and painting as much as any other academic idea that’s holding it all together.”
Steven Asquith’s Storm Concepts opens this Thursday evening at Utopian Slumps and runs until August 28.