Contemporart Art Market: Artist explores life's inhospitable textures

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The Independent Online
TEXTURES we prefer to forget - slime, gunge, scum, sludge, dirt and gunk - have been recreated by Laura Godfrey-Isaacs for her new show at the Sue Williams Gallery at 320 Portobello Road, west London. This feminist artist is only 29 but manages to contribute to a dozen or so exhibitions a year and was painter in residence at the Tate, Liverpool, in 1990 when the textural exploration of flesh was her main concern.

The first reaction to her new paintings is one of shock that such secret and revolting textures should be revealed for everyone to see; Dirt is about diarrhoea, Scum about snot. The second is to chuckle appreciatively. She has done her job superlatively well by mixing her oil paint with various modern pastes and hardening agents - Spectragel, Spectraflow, Alkaflow, linseed oil paste and varnish - to ensure that the layers of paint she builds, often more than an inch thick, have depth and patina - and do not fall off the canvas.

Slime is the largest painting in the show, more than six feet square, and is just green oil paint encouraged to squelch, primarily by the force of gravity. Because it is so large it costs pounds 3,000, while Dirt, which is nine inches square, costs pounds 600, as does its near identical twin Dirt II. They are much thicker, stirred up and jellified. Most of the paintings cost less than pounds 1,000; they are not - and should not be - framed. The edges emphasize the oozings of the gunk or gunge.

Sculpture, photography and installation are nowadays the preferred outlets of the avant garde, and whether painting has a future is sometimes questioned. Laura Godfrey-Isaacs has definitely found something new to do with it. Other abstract artists tend to be repetitive.

The Eagle Gallery at 159 Farringdon Road, central London, which uses a room over a pub to promote young British artists, is showing two abstract expressionists in their mid-twenties, Stephen Jacques and Geoffrey Mowlam. 'Each begins, much as a jazz solo performance begins, with a preamble, a wandering notation, a lead-in which may not finally appear to have much to do with the core subject of the piece but which nevertheless begins a process of accretion and editing from which the finished work emerges', says John Cornall on the exhibition card.

Jacques uses bright colours and spikey notations, Mowlam earth colours and sweeping brush strokes. Their pictures are priced between pounds 350 and pounds 1,500.

The nearby Francis Graham- Dixon Gallery, at 17-18 Great Sutton Street, is showing a 53-year-old Japanese artist, Kikuo Saito, who has worked in America since 1966 and was a studio assistant, first to Larry Poons, then to Kenneth Noland. He uses coloured grounds made lively by animated brush strokes and draws nonsense words, numbers and geometry on top, mostly in white paint. Superficially they are reminiscent of Cy Twombly - though I am told Saito got there quite independently.

Like many second-division American painters, the effect is professional and quite decorative - though not very innovative. But he only asks pounds 5,500 to pounds 9,000 for his pictures where the front runners of his generation charge pounds 100,000 or so.

(Photograph omitted)