Critics’ Picks

View of Philip Jones, “Sundial,” 2008.


Philip Jones

45 Vyner Street
October 15–November 16

Like classic cartoon artists before him, Philip Jones employs a masterful approach to representational painting to produce canvases that function as portals to impossible worlds. In “Sundial,” his second solo exhibition at London’s FRED gallery, Jones expands his sci-fi vision to include sculpture that tests the limitations of reality and complements his paintings and their literary source material. The show’s inspiration, Theodor Fontane’s 1895 realist novel Effi Briest, is a sharp departure from Jones’s earlier surreal world and the pantheon of Marvel Comics–style villains, temptresses, heroes, and deities that populated it. Bridging the gap between that otherworldly oeuvre and Fontane’s tragic classic of constricted bourgeois marriage is Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1974 film adaptation of the novel. Taking form from that source, Jones’s Effi awkwardly stands poised in midstep near a dressing table coated in black and white paint. Positioned nearby is a series of large-scale canvases of a golden blossoming magnolia tree and the Effi character gracefully pushing away its branches in the same pose as her three-dimensional incarnation. Fassbinder’s faithful adaptation of Fontane’s tale of men and women dutifully propelled toward infidelity, violence, and despair is subtitled “Or many who have an idea of their possibilities and need nevertheless accept the prevailing order in the way they act, and thereby strengthen and confirm it absolutely.” That motto is the wedge that Jones uses to crack open the novel’s realistic imagery and infuse it with expressionistic symbolism. For Jones, the “prevailing order” he accepts is the limitless possibilities of painting, while he struggles against sculpture’s practical restrictions.