Anthony Lister’s Unslung Heroes at The Outsiders
There’s a certain tension in the air at The Outsiders gallery. It’s the tension of open space versus enclosed, incidental display versus dedicated showing, grime versus cleanliness. It’s that awkward feeling of canvases trying to be walls and fooling no-one. In short: it’s an indoor exhibition of work steeped in the traditions of street art.
The exhibition is dedicated largely to portraits of partygoers, lifted from the pages of one of his sketchbooks. It’s mostly made up of large canvases, with a scattering of sculptures for added dimension.
Lister’s style is instantly recognisable, but fans of his exuberant colours may be a little disoriented by the red, black and white employed throughout. His sultry, brooding figures acquire almost a machine-like dimension when rendered predominantly in greyscale. There’s a distinct griminess suggestive of smoke and war. Busty women peer out from helmets of dark hair, and creeping shadows reveal themselves on closer inspection as wolves or scorpions.
Lister layers both mediums and technique: blurs and drips underlie blunt brushstrokes and fine, precise line work to create double visions and imprecision on each canvas. Meanwhile, Debussy piano music follows us around the gallery, sonic counterpart to the Picasso-esque grand piano sculpture installed downstairs.
The gallery has been roughed up a little to reflect the content of the exhibition: paint drips down walls and permanent marker scrawls continue where the canvases leave off. Presumably the casual pen gestures echo the sketchbook from which the exhibition was born, but it also feels like they’re trying to pass off an indoor space as an outdoor one in an attempt to make the work sit more comfortably in its surroundings. We can’t help feel that the paint would be much happier on the walls outside.