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To celebrate Chris Rivers' first solo exhibiton in our partner gallery Friedrichs Pontone in New York, Pontone Gallery is delighted to announce Portal in London. This is a series of large-scale, exuberant works in which the artist deploys the materiality of paint to make images of otherworldly, stellar landscape. These fantastical scenes are rendered in a sumptuous palette of rich colour and a welter of expressive, gestural handling.
Rivers is an artist dedicated to exploring and exploiting the pictorial possibilities generated by the physicality of his painting process: saturated washes of vibrant colour develop into lowering skyscapes; clots and accretions of impastoed oil turn into mountain ranges; scattered and scumbled paint fields become the detritus of volcanic explosions; swirling billows of translucent medium suggest protean clouds of gas. His works maintain an energetic almost frenzied tempo but are not ‘one-note’ paintings: he introduces changes of pace and subtle manipulations of his technique which makes for a variety of mood and ambience.
Within all this galactic turmoil Rivers carefully introduces small figures, often astronauts, who establish a sense of monumental scale. They are subsumed in fiery, elemental vortices of turbulent paint, carried through time and space, desperate voyagers in an alien world. Rivers seems keen to emphasise human vulnerability and at the same time hail the pioneering spirit. His tiny protagonists exist on the edge of the sublime, in awe of the terrifying universe surrounding them. In this respect Rivers can be seen as an inheritor of the ‘apocalyptic’ tradition of British, nineteenth-century Romantic painter, John Martin.
This painter uses his studio as an alchemical workshop, spinning up painterly concoctions to transform mundane material into visionary images. He investigates the language of painterly abstraction to make pictures of notional and imaginary places and invites us to join him on a fantastic voyage, in anticipation of being lost, and found, in space.
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