sss T !! by Alexis M Teplin at the Hayward Gallery
At 6:30pm on a snowy Friday evening a collection of artistic individuals congregated at the Hayward Gallery to welcome the works of Alexis M Teplin – an artist emerging from eight years of art studies in LA with a cataclysmic explosion of colour, warmth and symbolism.
Negotiating the relationship between rhythm, colour and movement, paintings sss (2012), T (2012), and La, La, La (2012) aimed to reflect the musical vibrancy of the works of abstract artist, Wassily Kandinsky, while representing the sexually evocative story of Salomé. Although it could be argued that these works stand on their own, without the knowledge that Teplin has used Oscar Wilde’s dramatisation of the gruesome tale of Salomé as a trigger for sss T !!, it does add a dimension to the understanding of them.
Salomé is an Oriental princess who demands the head of John the Baptist as a reward for performing the Dance of the Seven Veils for King Herod. Upon receiving her prize on a silver platter, Salomé kisses the severed head, thereby sealing her unfortunate fate of being crushed to death.
Perverse, gruesome and wildly lustful, it is clear how Teplin has used this tale as inspiration. The colours, the vibrancy, and the pages of the illustrated story by Aubrey Beardsley which emerge from the paintings tempt curiosity. The story ties in very well with the irrepressible desire that the viewer experiences to reach out and touch Teplin’s work. Even the programme states in bold:”Please do not touch the works”, warning you upon entry to repress the impulse. The brushstrokes, the depth and contrasts of colour, and the use of material to create a crumpled bed linen texture, seek to evoke a sensuality in the pieces. Even without the story of Salomé, it immediately surrounds you with veils of colour.
Though these painted works successfully captured the imagination of the viewer, it is less easy to associate the seductive nature of the play with the plaster sculptures one had to move among in order to view the paintings. The aesthetic reflections uniting Oscar Wilde’s Salomé with the abstract musicality of Teplin’s texture and colour were strong enough to withstand this small criticism however, and they held the attention of the viewer.