I often feel that artists should keep quiet about their works. I know that the concept is important and in some works the concept is everything but particularly with paintings you can sometimes see something marvellous on the wall and then read what it means and either find it is about something completely different from what you had imagined, or sounds so pretentious that it diminishes the work. Painters can often express complicated multi layered ideas in paint better than they can in words: that is why they are painters.
Explanations are not a problem with James Fisher, whose exhibition has just opened at the Eagle Gallery in the Farringdon Road. He believes in giving very little information, allowing the paintings to speak for themselves.We have the title of the exhibition: Doppelgänger which suggests an exploration of identity and there are titles which in some cases are people’s names – Thomas Bernhard – Sophia Jex Blake, though there is no information about the people and no obvious link to the subject.
In other cases the names are ambiguous; Eiko could be referencing a Japanese born choreographer and dancer an illustrator or even a playable figure in Final Fantasy IV. Okiku is Japanese for doll and indeed looking it up I find there is an story of a supposedly haunted okiku where its hair is supposed to keep growing. Is that relevant? I liked the painting; do I need to know what it means?
Not even gallery owner Emma Hill knew quite how to interpret them We discussed Thomas Bernhard shown below. “There is clearly a hat;” I said, “Are those rabbit ears? But what is the shape above the hat?”
She too was unsure; “I don’t know; I’ve been trying to work it out. He will tell me eventually,” she said.
I rather liked the mystery; it made one look more closely at the paintings which are highly skilled. The paint is built up in layers, has been sanded and repainted so that elements of the original marks are evident. The geometric shapes add complexity; whereas the recognisable representational shapes tend, as in this painting, to appear two dimensional, in some the geometric areas have a 3d effect that suggest flex and provide solidity.
Birds and cats are a reoccurring theme. In Margaret Morse Nice, the birds are apparent while in Althea R, you realise that the bird is half hidden; the geometric patterns are in the shape of a cat’s head.
But the painting I liked the best, Neko, which is the Japanese for cat, had, I thought at first, portrayed no cats at all.
Then looking at the photographs later, I wondered whether the projections at the top were ears and the geometric part was a cat’s head. I hope not: I preferred to think of it as representing the brain or multi-faceted thought. That is the way with interpretation: sometimes you prefer your own.
James Fisher, Doppelgänger is at the Eagle Gallery, 159 Farringdon Road from 16 June to 16 July