Critics’ Picks

The Romantic, 2006.

The Romantic, 2006.

London

Mathew Weir

Emily Tsingou Gallery
10 Charles II Street
October 10–December 2, 2006

Mathew Weir’s small, secretive paintings have a mysterious and almost numinous presence. As if creating votive images, he takes solitary subjects, among them a robed figure carrying a cross, Abraham Lincoln, and an exhausted farmhand, and locks them into a rich field of colors. Around many of the figures, he crafts intricate wreaths that channel both the rich border designs found in illuminated manuscripts and fading chintz. For The Voyeur, 2006, he cradles a swaddled infant on a shaped canvas—a narrow rectangle topped by a convex arch. Suggestive of both an open doorway and a tombstone, the contours of this work render the spirit of the composition ambiguous. The Romantic, 2006, follows the formula of saints' portraits—a disciple perched on stone in a forest, swept away in thought and meditation—while simultaneously referencing the look of carnival entertainers with the subject’s candy-striped trousers and painted face. Weir’s Romantic holds an open book in his hands, but tiny as it is, the richness of its potential clues remains enshrined within the piece. As with the other works on view, narrative remains elusive, and yet the canvas manages an unsettling, uncanny resonance within these moments of utter stillness.