Apotrope: Tomas Harker | Jack Jubb | Mia Middleton | Caroline Zurmely
9 June - 14 July 2022
Cob Gallery is proud to present a group exhibition of work by Tomas Harker, Jack Jubb, Mia Middleton and Caroline Zurmely. Borrowing its name from the Greek word meaning to ward off or avert evil, ‘Apotrope’ brings together four artists who share an understanding of painting as an alchemical process: a material transformation that invests its subjects with magical energy.
In still-life compositions that seem to elevate one or a small number of things to the status of totems or fetishes, these four artists use framing, scale and the enrichment of surface as forms of abstraction. Starting with heterogenous source material often drawn from the internet or other screen media, their work sounds out the ambiguous zone between the digital and the physical in a present flooded by cheap imagery and endlessly repeated cycles of stimulation and fulfilment.
Tomas Harker’s large-scale oil paintings address the nature of meaning in a heavily mediated world saturated by the hyper-real – that is, copies for which there is no longer any original. Interested in technology’s flattening of conventional formal hierarchies, he translates digital imagery into paint ‘to interrupt the groundlessness associated with the sense of continual semiotic free-fall’.
Caroline Zurmely, working in the unusual medium of nail varnish, depicts scenes drawn from the tabloid press and public mourning. Her tightly cropped images disrupt our sense of distance, bringing about a conjoined sense of intricate intimacy and glossy inaccessibility that corresponds with the multiple status of nail varnish itself as both embellishment and barrier, performance and concealment.
Jack Jubb’s airbrush painting, applied to recycled paper and fabrics, examines the material basis of screen imagery and its afterlives. Gathering banal, discarded, often degraded source material online, he transforms this into reflections on the clash of ephemerality and permanence in the digital age, raising difficult questions about truth, memory, nostalgia and fantasy as he does so.
Mia Middleton, working in oil paint on a small scale, is prompted by clashes of immediacy and duration, familiarity and strangeness, chaos and control. Detaching her source imagery from its eclectic contexts, she creates ambiguous prompts devoid of clear narrative or temporality, drawing out dissonances of feeling as she cultivates an aesthetic of unresolved intrigue across the series of works on show.
In a contemporary characterised by visual noise and the collapse of reality into its replicas, these artists supply protective charms to guide us through the night. Seen together, their position as part of a distinctive tendency emerges into view: a reinvention of the still-life for our overloaded age.