Ramis Barquet Gallery is pleased to present What Wisdom, a solo exhibition of the recent work of James Rielly.
In his third solo exhibition at the gallery, Rielly’s What Wisdom presents his latest family album of ambiguity and ambivalence, a collection of at first glance familiar snapshots of childhood stoicism and adult self-discovery. Boundaries between playtime dress-up and nighttime fetishism become blurred as the conventional trajectories of emotional learning are turned on their head. Adolescent boys with long white beards stare impassively at the viewer while naked adult men play with sock puppets.
Rielly’s figurative paintings portray an unsettling vision of normality, in which seemingly mundane subjects appear to conceal something sinister or bizarre. Subtle images of everyday subject matter in mainly soft tones and pastel colors act as lures into an ambiguous world of suggestion and uncertainty, in which the viewer’s own responses are called into question. Individually they offer glimpses of a sometimes harsh reality, while seen together inspire narratives ranging from the satirical to the grotesque.
In What Wisdom, Rielly acts as observer, storyteller, finger-pointer and cartoonist, simplifying his images to solitary figures on monochromatic backgrounds. With inspirations as diverse as religious art, comic books, horror films, and 70s punk, his works are not easy to grasp and deliberately sidestep classification. While old men in business suits yell at each other, black-eyed children smile for a school portrait. Histories and consequences are left to the viewer’s discretion. Equal parts humorous and heartbreaking, Riley’s new paintings are increasingly simple yet consistently locate the point at which the ordinary and the unsettling meet.
Rielly was born in Wales in 1956 and lives and works near Toulouse, France. In 2006 he was appointed Professor of Painting at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, and his work is held in prestigious public collections worldwide, including the Tate Gallery, UK; the Arts Council of England; the Muse?e des Beaux-Arts de Nantes, France; CASA Salamanca, Spain and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, UK. Part of the ‘YBA’ generation, his work was included in the acclaimed Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection, Royal Academy, London; Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; Brooklyn Museum, New York, 1997-2000