Far Away is Close at Hand in Images of Elsewhere at The Outsiders
Returning to The Outsiders gallery once more, Radiohead’s in-house artist, Stanley Donwood presents us with his latest exhibition. Far Away is Close at Hand in Images of Elsewhere is a collection of works that centre on the surreal nature of arboreal Holloways – overarching avenues of trees that bend and twist to form tunnel-like effects.
As you enter the gallery, you are met by The King of Limbs, a series of large paintings that form the official artwork of Radiohead’s latest LP, also named The King of Limbs in reference to an ancient oak tree in Savernake Forest. Beautifully coloured and populated with mystical creatures, these surreal landscapes bewitch and beguile.
Particularly enchanting is Poor End, a mysterious woodland scene with blue, white, red and yellow fir trees, set against a mountainous backdrop and lit with a brilliant moon. Large red creatures with long spindly legs creep through a black mist, while a layered gold shimmer illuminates the canvas.
Next it’s down to the dungeon for Donwood’s woodcut prints and drawings. The never-ending vortexes, carved out of cage-like branches, and the dramatic use of black-on-white, white-on-black and black-on-black, make these the most ominous. Furthermore, with the woodcuts, there is this intriguing literalness – a linking of the material used (wood, paper) and what is being described (a mysterious woodland). Here, form and content are one and the same, something that adds to the overall rawness of the exhibition.
While the woodcuts haunt and menace, the delicate drawings, wiry and web-like in their composition, point to the sublime beauty of nature. This is something Donwood has spoken about: “I had a kind of memory that the fluted columns and ceiling tracery of medieval churches owed its inspiration to the northern forests of Europe; the tall tree trunks, the interlaced branches above, the majesty of the woods.” Indeed, it is this majesty, the awe-inspiring nature of woodlands, matched with a kind of Gothic beauty, that one really feels here.
Overall, the exhibition does exactly what its title promises to do, which is to say that it brings pictures of elsewhere closer to us, but in no way does it attempt to unpick the sense of otherness. Although exhibited before our eyes, Donwood’s world, weirdly wonderful in its arboreal beauty, remains forever elsewhere.
Stanley Donwood: Far Away is Close at Hand in Images of Elsewhere is at The Outsiders gallery until 19th October 2013. For further information visit the gallery’s website here.