Sunday, 11 March 2012


 21 Eastcastle Street

Every time I walk into a gallery and am surrounded by the work of a single artist, I know it’s the moment to slow down. Forget comparing and contrasting. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
The sorely-missed critic Tom Lubbock wrote in the Independent of Alex Lowrey's ‘pale chalky colours, and his undemonstrative paint strokes. There is the softness and liquidity of his forms'.  He goes on to say that these factors 'give the work their specific character – isolated, obedient, vulnerable, defensive, clingy, giving’.

I think those six adjectives are as near as I can get in describing Lowery's work.
This is especially true of Lowery’s paintings of unexceptional seaside resorts, and some unpromising buildings which do not even have the glamour of being ugly. The artist chooses to eliminate the picturesque and to avoid scenes clamouring for attention. There are no titles, only a place name - West Bay or Portland - and a number. We have to be content with that. Paring down to the essentials is at the heart of Alex Lowery’s work: ‘I am drawn to the randomness, the awkwardness of West Bay. And yet there is a sort of cohesion... perhaps its very randomness is its integrity… it enables selection of the things you can use’.
Pink Wall
Lowery is a difficult artist to write about. Perhaps it’s significant that critics commenting on his work often draw comparisons with other artists. The American painter Edward Hopper is named as an influence. But one of the pleasures of Hopper is that the mesmeric emptiness of his pared down street or theatre is real enough to hint that you could walk into the picture. I don’t think Lowery's paintings allow that: they are too concentrated, too formal.
The critic, David Cohen, mentions the Italian Futurist artist, De Chirico. “West Bay has…become something quite marvellous in Lowery’s hands, like De Chirico’s Ferrara, an actual place, but every bit as unreal as an invented city… the town has been transformed quite simply, by being rendered as form'.                                                                   
But perhaps the Italian painter Morandi sheds most light. A still life painter, he limited his choice of subject to unremarkable bottles, boxes, jugs and vases.




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