183-185 Bermondsey Street
Figure and Ground is a group exhibition bringing together works by KV Duong, Radek Husak, Gavin Maughfling and James Robert Morrison.
As a piece of art jargon, Figure and Ground refers to the perception of physical forms. How something, or someone, is distinguished from the context or surrounding in which it appears. But what if that distinction is less clear? What if the context is obscured, or the surroundings turn out to be a construct of imagination?
Such imagined landscapes are created in KV Duong’s Unhomely and Collision series. As an artist who grew up in Canada to Chinese Vietnamese parents displaced by the Vietnam War, Duong contrasts historic images, scenes of contemporary everyday life, and body painting to retell a history that has been distorted through media censorship and displaced through passed-on experiences. In so doing, a new psychological reality is suggested, a sanctuary to work-through and work-over the past within a safe present-day haven.
Gavin Maughfling continues this exploration of ‘real’ and dreamt spaces in his recent paintings. Film stills, texts like Deleuze’s Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation and photographs of gay cruising sites serve as source material to consider the notion of what a queer space might be. Through these paintings, the viewer can consider the sensation of crossing the boundary from the external, heteronormative world into one that is queer, and the possibility that the dreams and imagined encounters we might have in these spaces can in a sense feel more vivid than what actually happens in them.
At a time when there were no out and proud public figures, and schools were exclusively heteronormative environments due to Section 28, finding a moment of escapism to a queer space was more challenging. James Robert Morrison’s work is an ongoing conversation where he explores these teenage memories and experiences around the discovery of his sexuality, and subsequent decision to hide it. The works presented in this exhibition have their origin in the artist’s boyhood collection of gay pornography. “I guess the couples in these magazines were who I had to look up to,” Morrison explains, with the figures removed and displaced, playfully exploring what a person reveals or conceals.
The presentation of the nude figure is a timeless classical tradition, seducing the viewer with beauty and perfection. Radek Husak presents us with a very modern muse: the lithe and youthful man – channelling the look and movement of a fashion model in a neo-romantic way. In the image, we see the glitch – this is the double exposure, the jolt and the jut; a digital imperfection, a stuttering. These fragments are rearranged and reworked until they become something verging on the sublime which may almost threaten to overwhelm, scratching at the divine in order that we are able to transcend ourselves.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS:
KV Duong (b.1980, Vietnam)
KV Duong is a London-based artist with a practice that spans painting, sculpture, and performance. Duong grew up in Canada to Chinese Vietnamese parents displaced by the Vietnam War. In his work he explores themes of migration and cultural assimilation, through a re-examination of his parents’ and his own experiences. War trauma and integration correlate with the artist’s coming out as a gay Asian man. Duong is a self-taught artist with a background in structural engineering. He has contributed to several juried competitions including Derwent Art Prize (2016), Discerning Eye (2020), Royal Cambrian (2021, 2022) & Royal Ulster Academy Open (2021), Barbican Arts Group Trust Open (2021), BBC’s Royal Academy Summer Exhibition Programme (2019) and Sky Landscape Artist of the Year (2022). Duong will have his first UK institutional exhibition at the Migration Museum in March 2022.
Radek Husak (b.1984, Poland)
Rad Husak is inherently a process-driven artist. Based in London and graduating with a Masters from the Royal College of Art, his practice is firmly situated in the expanded field of print. Through intensive research and experimentation, Husak has come to hew out his own process – defining the technique of the pigment transfer twinned with carbon-drawn elements, on sandblasted aluminium, often utilising the alternative photographic technique of the cyanotype.
Gavin Maughfling (London, UK)
Recent exhibitions include his solo exhibition The Heart is a Lonely Hunter at no format Gallery, London in 2021; Beep Painting Biennial, Elysium Gallery Swansea 2020, between parts undone, studio1.1 Gallery London, 2020; Creekside Open 2019, APT London; Artworks 2019, Barbican Art Trust, London 2019; Did You See Me Coming?, no format Gallery, London 2019; Beyond the Binaries, House of St. Barnabas, London 2018, Ghost on the Wire 2, Objectifs, Singapore 2016 and Over Time at the University of Greenwich and National Maritime Museum, London 2014. With Suzanne de Emmony, he has co-curated major international exhibitions in the UK and Singapore. He is currently working with Steph Goodger on Pull Back The Curtain, a project that explores unseen but sensed traces of events, with a forthcoming exhibition at Rosalux Galley, Berlin. His work is held in private and public collections in the UK and abroad.
James Robert Morrison (b.1979, Scotland)
After graduating in 2002 with an MA Fine Art from Central Saint Martins, Morrison worked in a central London commercial art gallery for 3 years. Over the past 14 years he has worked for the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, Arts Council England and the UK Government Art Collection. In January 2019, after a 17-year hiatus, he went back into the studio to continue his art practice in London. Since then he has won the Mervyn Metcalf Purchase Prize at the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition (2021), been selected for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition (2021) and awarded special commendation at the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize (2020). His work is held in the UK Government Art Collection and private collections in the UK, USA and China.