Yesterday evening (11th October) was the opening of Katie Sims’ first London solo show – “Opening Gambit” – at the Hoxton Art Gallery.
Katie’s work is both homage and the subversion of the works of the old masters of the Renaissance and the Baroque. This is quite a bold and risky enterprise, as it would be easy, for a lesser artist, to fall in gimmicky look-at-me-I’ve-been-in-art-school trappings, but Katie manages to easily avoid these pitfalls with the power of her expressive and confident brushstroke and with the use of geometric figures and colours that take the place of the archetypal figures of the old days.
The centerpiece of the show is Fleeting Romano (2012), a large scale painting that’s a reinterpretation of Uccello’s Battle of San Romano (which you can see in the National Gallery). In this painting the soldiers are reduced to violent brown and blue strokes, the horses charge threateningly, like ghostly wailing beasts. Their riders are long gone, though, nothing but an outline and empty space, a memory. The lances of the warriors slash across the canvas and the whole scenery seems engulfed in a suffocating fog of war. But then you notice there’s something else that is strange… The lances of what were the dead soldiers on the floor are turning into a precise chess pattern. The ornamental circles on the horses reins seem to be coming out of the subject, to just float away free from its previous confinements. It’s like something is interfering with the very fabric of the world that work shows us. Something from another place, from another time or from another dimension.
That’s what, for me, takes Katie’s work to another level: this obliteration of a familiar, ancient land. The tiny geometric figures and bright colours making their way into Constablesque landscapes, like peaceful invaders, laying down to bathe under the Turneresque light, or bringing soothing and unthreatening blues and pinks to the barren grays and browns of a Claude-like scenery. It is like looking at an old world falling apart, unraveling at the seams right before our eyes as a new age breezes in and calmly sits down to enjoy the view and relax.
Katie Sims is a British artist born in 1988. She graduated from University College Falmouth in 2010 and has already been awarded numerous prizes like the prestigious Richard Ford Award, Jerwood Drawing Prize and the Midas Award. Even though this is her first London solo show, she has exhibited extensively in Britain and internationally.
Opening Gambit is on show at the Hoxton Art Gallery until the 10th of November 2012.
Words by João Duarte Silva