Southard Reid is proud to present Woody, new work by Neal Jones and his second solo show with the gallery. Woody comprises painting, sculpture, furniture and domestic objects.
"We learn very early the dangerous consequences of misbehaviour and with it the closeness of death, and so it is sensible to treat the darker side of life with serious attention, but when I make images and things that are soaked in 'seriousness', I stand back, look and despair yet again, as if I am merely stating the obvious and willfully self-harming. This aim is folly, since I enjoy painting and want to be happy, especially when I am not, and so I need to include these facts too. I paint now with this conundrum, the need for brutal, sometimes frightening honesty, but also with an absurd optimism, which is not irrational. Something like a combination of the model for Greek tragic performances which focused on misery but still ended with comedy."
Neal Jones, 2012
Neal Jones’ work locks horns with and celebrates the stuff of life, equally embracing (its) grandeur and absurdity, describing an intimate dialogue with the natural and un-natural world.
Paint and wood are Jones’ chosen materials, whether making a painting on board or, for example, a lamp, wood is the bone on to which his forms are then fleshed out. Woody celebrates this material affection as well as the dark and mysterious natural world. The phallic, as life-force, is referenced formally and metaphorically throughout the show.
The home is presented almost as wood-land, a place of safety and refuge as well as setting for wildness and vice. This is both literal – Jones includes hand-fashioned domestic objects in his Survival Kit, as well as imagined - in the paintings set in his living room or kitchen, Interior or The Pig Has Arrived.
The sexualised landscape is not confined to the indoors. The landscape painting Woody is infused with the fantastical and suggestive; trees with erections, a dragon and a lost couple. The Scaffolders also grapples with a similarly personalised homoeroticism.
Woody’s paintings in oil on reclaimed board, are accompanied by a suite of acrylic paintings on paper (some dusted with sugar) and made as celebrations of the oils, liberated from the struggle within the originals and presented with flag-like pageantry in the second room of the gallery. Stripes create a formal link in the exhibition; The Scaffolders, Mabey in Gelato and their acrylic versions, show the physical making of a bold and decorative mark in paint, an affirmative gesture and pictorial containment of wildness.
The subjects and language of Jones deftly mix deliberate references and formal associations with art of the past. The composition of Sassetta’s St Anthony beaten by Devils is repeated several times. There are echoes of other Italian 'primitives', and of Breughel, Gothic as well as Folk Art and American modernism. Some Pop also sits with relics of pre-history.
A limited edition catalogue, twenty of which are hand painted, has been designed and made by Neal Jones and Steve Lowe to accompany the exhibition.
Neal Jones was born in Liverpool in 1969. Recent solo shows include Ye Deflatede Artes, 2012, I am not painting, 2011, and New Paintings and Handmade Things, 2010, each at L-13, London. Neal Jones: Sad Hillwas at Southard Reid, 2010. In 2009 he shared I Am the Good Artist with Billy Childish, at L-13.