Suzy Babington and Jack Towndrow
A few weeks ago I shared a 'one by' post of a stellar painting by Slade School of Fine Art graduate Jack Towndrow. Excitingly, I was contacted by another Slade graduate, Suzy Babington, who currently works alongside Jack in a studio in Edinburgh. So in a wonderful turn of events that prove the how-small-the-world-is rule, it turns out that studio is at Forest Centre+, within which is Interview Room 11, where I was involved last summer. So of course I'm on board with happy coincidences and I'm excited to see these two artists recently from London (and missing it a lot, as it happens) trying to make a go of it in Edinburgh.
It's fascinating for me, from the perspective of an art blogger who is interested in emerging artists and recent graduates, what the experience is like for those who have earned an advanced art degree and find themselves out in the real world, fixing their sights on exhibitions, funding opportunities, or gallery representation. What to do first? How to get to know a new city? How to acquaint the city with your work? I was thrilled and encouraged to see that on March 6th, 2015, for one night only, Towndrow and Babington hosted a joint exhibition of their work in their New Town flat titled Havin' a Wobbly One, which brought a great turnout and fostered connections in their new city.
Suzy Babington considers herself an 'experimentive' painter, working in large scale with impasto application that shows a visceral and tactile understanding and appreciation of the medium. The subject matter varies, in some cases reminiscent of gentler subjects, but sometimes veering toward the ridiculous -- always with a keen eye for bold, multifarious color combinations and a lovely interpretation of how pattern, line and hue can, especially on a large format, allow the viewer that same sort of visceral appreciation. Personally, I would have loved to see eight huge paintings (upwards of 200cm) inside an Edinburgh flat.
The paintings of both Babington and Towndrow are of a style that I hadn't quite experienced in Edinburgh, and visitors to their one-night show expressed similar thoughts. The work is big, bright, messy, slightly startling, and wonderfully exciting. Their paintings complement each other and possess a sort of electricity. Babington's thick paint, straight from the tube, brushed, or sprayed on, is as exhilarating as it can be disconcerting, such as in Traffic where the two parallel lines of aerosol paint suggest the shadow of some mysterious, invisible object behind the viewer. The paint itself as well as its illustrative presence on the canvas is about sensation -- the texture, volume and sloppiness intrinsic to the raw material. This complements Towndrow's more controlled application of paint on the canvas, emphasizing how organic forms move and relate to one another in the space of the surface. Recently Towndrow has been working with the idea of the canvas as a voluminous stage-like space inside of which there are set objects or props.
While both painters are interested in playing contrasting elements off one another both in form and physical aspects of the paint itself, Babington's sometimes whimsical, humorous and occasionally aggressive style is more extemporaneous than Towndrow's, which culminates in unusual, somewhat awkward compositions that nevertheless compel us to try to make sense of them or sort them out somehow, secretly glad that they won't. Contrastingly, Towndrow often utilizes motifs that he has worked into previous studies and drawings, and he approaches his work from the start with a firmer understanding of what the end piece will be.