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The Cost of Living, 2009
Arch Gallery

In this inaugural show, Arch Gallery takes the view that ‘the cost of living’ is not an invoice at the end of a lifestyle but the consequences of the life you choose.
And you did choose your life didn’t you?

When they were giving out names of places you did look at the rest of the world and think, No, I want to live Here; and you did decide at an early age that This was what you wanted your life to be; and you’re not rich, not really rich, because you didn’t want to be, did you?

Bea Denton’s Soul Imaging series is a hypnotic and slightly disturbing collection of faces caught in moments of private recognition. It is not always evident what has been realized but something has – a doubt, a fear, a delight, maybe hope. All other information has been removed from the image, no body, no context, no-one else, only our recognition of a face in a sea of deep shadow. These are individuals caught in limbo, like souls in purgatory perpetually enacting their emotion, but for our redemption.

Each image was originally captured on film before being photographed, projected onto a wall through a camera obscura and then re-photographed before finally being printed. The merging and separation of these layers results in mysterious, shadowy images that somehow float one-step removed from the picture surface. Like 19th Century 'spirit' photographs they have an aura which is hard to pinpoint – as elusive as the motive that prompts the emotion.

In Love Hate Truthand Life Death Speed Paul Marks presents us with an apparently limitless series of causes and effects or life and death choices. But here both the motive and the emotion have been erased; all that remains is the equation. Like Op Art illusions or desert sands they shift over time as fickle as opinions and as familiar as headlines.

In 1968 the radical feminist Valerie Solanas shot Andy Warhol three times but failed to kill him, though according to Marks, 4 holes for Andy Warhol has more to do with Warhol’s silver silkscreens of Elvis Presley as a gunslinger than anything else – which only makes one wonder which side of the gun he stands on. The drawn lines in both this image and in Beauty and the Possibilities slide sensuously across the surface, tending always towards the central void as if hypnotized either by the vagina or the gun barrel.

Another gunfight takes place in The Table of Loaves. Patrick StPaul describes it as ‘a banquet to die for’ and in all seriousness, as an altar at which we the congregation perform the ritual. This is a multi-layered image of such complexity that it touches both the sublime and the ridiculous at once, and like much of his work undermines our familiar symbols and places us in the role of interpreter.

The central figure is the table itself which has metamorphosed into an ass. Whether this is a simple negative or a reference to Christ and Jerusalem is not clear, nonetheless the image of an animal upholding the universe is as old as history. Beneath it lurks a world that can be understood as Resource or raw material while above it is enacted the Play. At one end of the table lies the generative force and at the other end the institutions of science, knowledge and the law. In the middle a pair of doves in the role of ritual kings, fight for the remains of a charred feast.

What does this or indeed any of the work here add up to? If we are puppets who is holding the strings? If we have free will what do we do with it? Images abound but absolute analysis, as in life, remains elusive. The only way to begin is to choose a path and follow it. StPaul Art strange creative

Detail from:
The Table of Loaves, 2009
Patrick StPaul