Philomena Epps

  • Penny Goring, Plague Doll, 2019, fabric and lace, 24 x 24 × 8".
    picks July 05, 2022

    Penny Goring

    Penny Goring’s survey, titled “Penny World,” brings to mind words the late painter Paula Rego used to describe the lone protagonist of Girdle, 1995: “I thought of her as cast out, a sinner in the wilderness . . . A real, lumpy, bumpy woman who has sinned.” Like Rego’s interpretations of fairy tales—where the line between innocence and experience, victims and perpetrators gets complicated—Goring’s biro and colored felt-tip drawings intermingle sex and violence in frank illustrations of alienation, hysteria, deprivation, and mutilation. The exhibition is also populated with lumpy, bumpy women in

  • Esther Pearl Watson, Split in Two, 2022, paint on panel, 8 x 10".
    picks June 28, 2022

    Esther Pearl Watson

    Angels and aliens, saints and spaceships converge upon Morena di Luna this summer, blurring the distinction between divinity and conspiracy, imagination and belief. In a constellation of pencil-and-foil works on paper, the German-born, Texas-raised artist Esther Pearl Watson envisions celestial heralds and flying saucers hovering over fields and farmlands, each sheet inscribed with effusive, esoteric titles, such as Their fountain of energy is nuclear fusion and An abundance of oort clouds exist in the galaxy (all works cited, 2022). The naïve folk style of her paintings on board, paper, panel,

  • Sands Murray-Wassink, My God, 2002, marker pen and biro on paper, 26 x 19''.
    picks February 25, 2022

    Sands Murray-Wassink

    In a pearlescent heather-purple painting that covers an entire gallery wall, Sands Murray-Wassink has depicted a shooting star, flowers, and two sweet-looking ponies, mid-gallop, with elongated spindly legs and swishy tails. These cartoonish horses are found throughout the show—as emotional alter egos or spirit animals—with the artist’s idiosyncratic equine character inhabiting numerous works on paper. A kind of therapeutic and intuitive automatic writing, these untitled and undated sketches are typically inscribed with vulnerable, unabashed declarations on making art, mental health, and queer

  • Lucy Stein, Wet Room, 2021, hand-painted ceramic tiles, bath, sink, shower head, black acrylic mirror, water, dimensions variable. Installation view. Photo: Max McClure.
    picks November 08, 2021

    Lucy Stein

    In a reconjuring of the kingdom of Lyonesse, the mythical sunken landscape situated off the Cornish peninsula, Lucy Stein has installed a bathroom at the center of Spike Island’s galleries. Wet Room, 2021, was crafted using timber scenery flats common to theater set design, onto which a wall of hand-painted ceramic tiles has been adhered. A modern rainfall showerhead sprays into the pedestal tub and the sink taps are left running, as if to remind us of how, in Celtic lore, the island of Lyonesse was swallowed by a tidal wave during a storm.

    On the tiles, Stein has portrayed a mermaid, the eye of

  • Sophie Barber, Justin loves gardeners world and monty don, 2021, oil on canvas, 116 1/8 x 83 1/2''.
    picks September 20, 2021

    Sophie Barber

    All is full of love, as Björk once sang (on a track she likened to “birds coming out after a thunderstorm”). At Alison Jacques, Sophie Barber has populated the gallery with lovebirds, both literal and metaphorical. Her bright, bucolic presentation—accented by the tongue-twister title “How Much Love Can a Love Bird Love, Can a Love Bird Love a Love Bird” (a riff on the old faithful, “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck…”)—plays with scale, mixing canvases great and small. Barber’s thickly impastoed output has ranged from paintings the size and heft of a ship’s sail, hung taut with raw edges,

  • View of “Hairy on the Inside,” 2021.
    picks May 07, 2021

    Lindsey Mendick

    Lindsey Mendick’s exhibition “Hairy on the Inside” prompted me to revisit Angela Carter’s so-called wolf trilogy: the final stories in The Bloody Chamber (1979), the British author’s collection of transgressive, feminist revisionist fairy tales. On rereading them, I discovered the genesis of this show’s title in the line “the worst wolves are hairy on the inside,” which appears in Carter’s “The Company of Wolves.” Mendick, who has a similar dexterity in inhabiting the uncanny, uses the werewolf as a cipher for living with polycystic ovary syndrome, which can also cause hirsutism and infertility,

  • Ron Nagle, Signature Scent, 2017, wood, catalyzed polyurethane, epoxy resin, 6 × 4 1/2 × 4 3/4".
    picks November 12, 2020

    Ron Nagle

    This exhibition’s eponymous Lincolnshire Squire, 2018, is not a noble medieval courtier, as one might speculate, but rather a pint-sized sculpture. As is typical with Ron Nagle’s practice, some titles are red herrings, while others playfully experiment with alliteration and punning. This is perhaps best epitomised by Mail Impotence, 2018, which takes the form of an engorged arrow, its point buried, with cartoonish, phallic fletching.

    Nagle fabricated the “squire” itself in his hallmark idiosyncratic combination of ceramic, epoxy resin, and catalysed polyurethane. The work is comprised of three

  • Lauren Gault, C I T H R A, 2020, Lycra, wood, steel, Jesmonite, bolus gun, rice bone, glass, dimensions variable.
    picks February 19, 2020

    Lauren Gault

    In 1907, the Irish-born inventor and scientist Martha Craig published an esoteric science-fiction novel titled The Men of Mars under the pseudonym Mithra, a name that invoked the ancient Roman deity and cult of Mithras. Over a century later, her book has become a point of departure for a distant relative, the artist Lauren Gault, who here integrates Craig’s transcendent alias into her sculptures, which envelop the gallery in an obscure caul of mythology and industrial menace.

    The speculative blankness of an awkward, tentlike centerpiece of stretched white Lycra (all works C I T H R A, 2020) brings

  • View of “Car Park,” 2019.
    picks December 06, 2019

    Hilary Lloyd

    Sited within the manicured, mawkish snow globe that is Mayfair during Christmastime, Hilary Lloyd’s exhibition proves a welcome antithesis to the surrounding ostentation. The show opens with Moscow, all works 2019, a saw-edged assortment of three abstract paintings, metal stud partitions, and multiple flat-screens, some connected to meandering equipment cables plugged into crumbling holes smashed in the walls.

    The footage in Moscow, in addition to that of four other videos—Buddleia, Pigeon, Water Rat, and Afghan Hound Archies Nightclub—is captured at close range. With the exception of the latter,

  • View of “Claude Mirrors: Victor Man, Jill Mulleady, Issy Wood,” 2019.
    picks October 10, 2019

    “Claude Mirrors: Victor Man, Jill Mulleady, Issy Wood”

    This group show is named after the tinted, convex pocket mirrors favored by British landscape painters from the eighteenth century: Claude mirrors. Reflected through the black glass, a surrounding scene would appear in distilled color with a softened focus and a framed perspective. The tool was popular with travelers and artists, notably the originator of the picturesque genre, Reverend William Gilpin, who advocated for its results, which he called akin to “the visions of the imagination” and “the brilliant landscapes of a dream.”

    Gilpin’s praise could be repurposed to describe the visions

  • Deborah Roberts, Red, White and Blue, 2018, mixed media and collage on canvas, 72 x 60".
    picks June 24, 2019

    Deborah Roberts

    “Manipulation of the photograph is as old as photography itself,” opens Dawn Adès’s introduction to Photomontage (1976). The term photomontage was popularized by the Berlin Dadaists—Hannah Höch, George Grosz, Raoul Hausmann, und so weiter—as a means to define their “anti-art,” the splicing and collaging of photographs with newspaper and magazine clippings, as genre. Their avant-garde dismembering of reality was rooted in political provocation, and the desire to reconfigure the world by reconfiguring images has endured throughout history.

    Deborah Roberts’s practice has followed this sociopolitical

  • View of “Lion Hunt,” 2019.
    picks April 12, 2019

    Reena Spaulings

    The weekend preceding the opening of Reena Spaulings’s latest presentation was marked by “Act XVIII,” the eighteenth Saturday of mass jacquerie instigated throughout France by the gilets jaunes. Akin to the cipher of Spaulings, a fictional persona orchestrated by an anonymous group of artists, the movement resists monolithic structures or signaled leadership. The reflective yellow hazard vest—originally associated with the working class and recent motoring laws but now inextricable from the insurrection—unifies the protesters, despite their heterogeneous demands.

    The semiotic potential of the