Observations: Simon Casson uncaged for an orgy of the collectable

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Holed up in his Somerset manse, the artist Simon Casson has become as mythic as his paintings, described by the trendy New York interior designer Adam Tihany as "the Renaissance on LSD". Casson is one of the most highly skilled painters of his generation, yet the sheer lushness of his punk-baroque imagery has made him a victim of the usual British suspicion of virtuosity. Thus, he has tended to be collected by the great and the corporate, such as the Prince of Wales and the Bank of America Trust.

Casson's latest show, Between Past and Present, has just opened at London's Frost & Reed Gallery. Can his vivid old-school skills, honed at the Royal Academy Schools, break the surly bonds of the artistic autism and banal irony that has dominated the scene for two lucrative A-listed decades? Casson's obsession with the mysterious depiction of beauty might seem, to some, as absurd as the recent sight of Damien Hirst and Jay Jopling being transported, in a pristine golf-buggy, all of 300 metres from the new Museum of Islamic Art in Doha to their limo pick-up point.

"Is it passé to make a glorious image?" asks Casson. "Art today is offered as a shot in the arm, a one-hit image, tequila, instant like an advert." His paintings are broken narratives, "fragmenting, shielding and obscuring, causing one to peek through layers and portals to another lining, another existence."

Casson's new series of paintings are exquisitely occult cut-ups based on the orgiastic Thesmorphoria festivals of ancient Greece, and they give us a new twist on Paul Klee's remark that art does not reproduce what is visible, but makes things visible. Casson's quest for "a feral atmosphere of abandonment" may never quite escape the formalities of the history of painting, but the tensions of his crumple-zones of breasts, smears, and fabric create remarkable realms of fractured sensuality.

Comments