23 February - 24 March 2005

Including works by:
Michael Rees

Michael Rees perceives himself not as a primitive or naïve painter, but as a self-taught artist. He attended Ipswich School of Art at the age of 17 but left after a year on the foundation course believing this to be the best way to achieve his ambition of becoming a practising artist. He has lived an worked in Cornwall since the mid 80s.

Rees’s range of working materials and his methodology have aspects in common with the artists who championed Outsider Art in the early twentieth century, such as Paul Klee and the Dada and Surrealist movements. His imagery is based on instinct and compulsion. There are intriguing similarities with the cultural, social and physiological attributes of L’Art Brut (or raw art) as promoted by Jean Dubuffet.   

Rees’s paintings are multi-layered. In the physical sense they are often executed on found items, such as an old school desktop or a discarded box. The surface of each painting is built up using wax and fired clay into an irregular bas-relief, before any image is conceived. When Rees begins to coax and conjour up his vision of the painting, it often appears as if the emerging figures have been drawn to the surface from some subterranean depth. The people who inhabit these paintings do not always appear content to be there, perhaps fearful of being called to account for some past crime or misdemeanour. They seem torn between two worlds, a limbo existence between past and present.

As with the artist’s two-dimensional work, the inclusion of everyday objects is an important feature of Rees’s sculpture. Typically, these consist of an assemblage placed into a box; the narrative aspect of the sculpture is supplemented by the use of moulded wax figures. The finish of the wax is reminiscent of preserved flesh, akin to that of human sacrifices found in peat bogs. These works are a macabre hybrid of pagan and Christian imagery; the box becomes both a reliquary and a prison. They are not without the artist’s over-riding humour, cutout words and phrases attached to the figures double up as quirky titles.

Despite the grotesque, almost medieval nature of Rees’s work, at its heart there is a gentle compassion for the subjects he has summoned up. He does not pass judgement on them, allocating that task to the viewer; such are the subtle nuances of their appearance, the contradictory nature of the titles that the same conclusion is never reached twice. He has created their world and perhaps through acquaintance with it we may have a better understanding of the vagaries of our own.