New mixed media works from David Whittaker are on view at Millennium in Cornwall. Here is the lowdown from the gallery.
Moments of darkness and joy, from the cradle to the grave. The weeping, the brave face. The unpredictable nature of being. The complexities of gender. Thought and emotions, personal and universal – this is what David Whittaker describes as ‘the rapture of life’.
An ever-increasing level of intricacy is a particular feature of this exhibition, with drawing underpinning the work. ‘The Gender Complexities’ are a series of painstakingly intricate drawings created through repetitive ‘prayer like’ scrawling and stenciling of found objects: lost keys, dropped coins, trinkets. Lives traced through discarded ephemera. A watermark is created that spirals outwards – fluid patterns flow across the board. Cellular, bodily and cosmic. Molecular. Chaotic and intricate. These are deeply personal markings. A more primal and expressive approach features on oval templates, which overset and contrast the work underneath. These ‘cameos’ illustrate the personal story, the isolation within the wider chaos of existence.
From the smallest vulnerable head studies, to the larger more imposing yet equally intimate painted heads – oppositions continue to weave – the familiar and the oblique in convolution and clarity. Macro / Micro. Dark / Light. Male / Female, Fleeting / Permanent.
A series of works, taken from a book of drawings titled ‘Studies from The Mirror of a Nightclub Toilet’ share, with often heartbreaking openness, personal and imagined narratives. Individual stories about the mundane and the weighty, triviality and daydream collide with loss and suffering. Fragility and thoughts of escape. They are heavy, romantic, tragic, whilst remaining prosaic. Through this sharing you are propositioned to contemplate that you may be isolated but you’re not alone.
The exhibition culminates with the four large paintings from a series called ‘From the Modern Pavilions’. In these paintings Whittaker explores and experiments with additional creative methods, including this delicate watermark drawing, alongside meticulous paintings of collaged elements and more abstracted oil and acrylic work. They are the first of a series of specific portraits where Whittaker is reverential of the subject. Sitting at a table, served tea with the fragmented sitter in imagined conversation, surrounded under the pavilion of life by a complex tapestry of existence. Without cliché, affection or irony Whittaker describes each panel as ‘‘a sort of womb of the world’’.
These are works for people to engage with on a personal level – the readings are varied and multifaceted. They are Whittaker’s ongoing pursuit to find understanding. The boundless beauty and chaos of life.
Co-written by Olivia Gray and Joseph Clarke, 2014