Leon Chew: Asphalt Black at Payne Shurvell
Leon Chew’s first solo show negotiates what has the potential to be a rather tawdry affair with creditable success.
To approach a topic as well-worn as “travel” precipitates either a generic, loose collection of aeolistic musings with the hope that no one will notice the insouciance of the artist, or it provides a stimulating starting point for what could be a thought provoking reflection on landscape. Fortunately Chew errs on the side of respect for his viewer.
Undoubtedly, America holds a fascination for many, and the notion of “road” is intrinsically embedded within this. The two journeys Chew made across the California desert in 2009 and 2012 therefore provide the artistic inspiration behind his production. However, this exhibition is not the simple regurgitation of 1950s literature; it approaches the topic as a series of abstract desert experiences with no reference to the detachment from society so particular to “road” works.
It is this inclination towards the abstract and away from the conventional which is responsible for the exhibition’s charm.
None of what is displayed is life-affirming in its magnificence, but each work is of a high standard. The size of the gallery is also a powerful contributor to the display’s success. A survey of the main room becomes a rather immersive experience, with at least three of the six works functioning in gratifying harmony. It would as such be interesting to see how the pieces will function without the support of their associates, subsequent to their sale.
The two works which occupy the long walls of the main room, Light Horizon and Asphalt Black 1-8, are of particular interest. The simplicity of Light Horizon is oddly emotive and fits in providentially with the Light Show at the Hayward Gallery. The photographic work, Barstow Site 1 is also an interesting piece, mediated through the delicate interplay of light.
The exhibition is well worth a visit and functions as a strong continuation of the high standards which Payne Shurvell achieves.