4 Painters 10 Works, Josh Lilley Gallery, London

London’s commercial galleries are this month packed with high-profile British paintings – solo shows for Bridget Riley, Sean Scully, Jenny Saville, Ian Davenport – but there is verve among younger British painters too, notably those featured in this intelligently contextualising, serious, unexpected group exhibition.

Nick Goss (born 1981) and Ryan Mosley (1980) are at first glance opposites. Goss paints ethereal, willowy, linear semi-abstractions on linen in subdued hues, based on photographic sources – such as that of a birdcage in a Turkish barber shop near his Dalston studio – and evoking fragmentary streetscapes or interiors, usually deserted, such as in “Green Lanes”. Mosley is a livid colourist whose raucous compositions often centre on boldly contoured, hybrid human-animal figures, as in “Muybridge Leisure Suit”. He builds up luscious layers of paint; Goss strips and pares down delicate marks.

At root for both artists, however, is the psychological space between the real and imagined. Both celebrate the exotic, opulent, fake: the fantastical tropical foliage of Mosley’s “Feline Enquiry” parallels the shadowy palm trees of Goss’s pink-hued shop interior “Stranger than Paradise”. And, growing up in the internet age, both artists inevitably distrust straightforward figuration, and find ways to muse on the interface between virtual and material worlds.

It is easy to see Chris Ofili’s exuberant influence behind Mosley, and Peter Doig’s theatricality shaping Goss; Josh Lilley draws out other subtle lineages. From “Beads” and “Mirror Series: Crew Cut”, paintings here by an artist indebted to both Ofili and Doig, Hurvin Anderson (born 1965) – abstracting his familiar Jamaican barber motifs – find echoes in Goss’s downward-coursing, bead-like veils of paint, and in his own barber shop imagery. The muted tones of Norbert Schwontkowski (1949-2013), German figurative painter of melancholy quietude, further resonate with Goss, whose “Cello” answers Schwontkowski’s elegantly elusive interior, “Bass”.

Mosley made an impact in Alison Jacques’ lively solo show this spring. Goss stars here – emerging, in his resistance to compositional resolution, loose painterly grace and improvisational flair, as one of the most accomplished, thoughtful, independent voices of his generation.


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