19/4 - 1/6/2019
EXHIBITION FOREWORD :
“Just under the surface I shall be, all together at first, then separate and drift, through all the earth and perhaps in the end through a cliff into the sea, something of me.” Samuel Beckett
It is a great pleasure for Anima Mundi to present Samuel Bassett’s latest solo exhibition ‘Hourglass’. Samuel Bassett is a British artist born in Cornwall in the far west of England in 1982. He currently works from the prestigious Porthmeor Studio complex in St. Ives. His works are exhibited and collected internationally.
Bassett's paintings, sculpture and installation display limitless zeal, honest pathos and sharp humour and are made with unrivalled creative, experimental, freedom. His painted language of mark-making varies from raw sweeping gestures to draughtsman-like drawn or graffito schematics with occasional paint thrown with force from the pot. His dexterity enables him to effortlessly capture scattered images of his inner monologue - often erratic, often pinpoint. Reflecting the ups and downs and the highs and lows as they happen. His paintings could be described as a form of ‘psychological cubism’, where the inner and the outer self reveal themselves and coalesce. His autobiographical work search for personal and universal meaning and in turn reflect concerns about 21st century society and the wider human condition.
It is relatively commonplace for painters to describe the making of their artwork as an act of geology, where a layering of material occurs in order to create a palimpsest. The result as such becomes reflective of times passing albeit the duration of the making of that piece of work. This indeed remains a suitable analogy for Bassett’s method of working, reflecting the cumulative product of his fleeting mind and active hand. However, geology is the study of time and pressure, and as with the layers of the earth, it is the rich emotionally layered thematics of Bassett's output that demand a little more excavation.
His latest solo exhibition, ‘Hourglass’, as ever, demonstrates his boundless creative energy, however this is also Bassett’s most mature exhibition to date, one which demonstrates a growing sense of reserve, allowing greater space for contemplation within the vortex of the artists’ mind. His works are imbued with a deep-rooted connection to place, the sea and landscape, as well as community and heritage. The localised placement of these cautionary tales become allegorical for broader more universal hopes and wider loss, fear and disconnection with condolence and settlement. I write this text following my visit to Sam’s studio to check progress, some work is very strong and complete (arguably his strongest and most complete to date), some remains excitingly poised in a state of flux awaiting its imminent moment of fruition, and further plans are sketched awaiting swift action. Energy is ripe and the development is in full swing. This is the creative sweet spot. The decisive moment. As has been well reported, Samuel Bassett is a very lovable guy, with a broad, tooth clad smile that lights up the room and a manic energy that makes you want to pin him by the shoulders, to keep him still for a moment and then in turn give him a big hug. However, there is no bouncing of the walls at this time. The enduring smile remains, albeit tempered but movements seem slower and more measured, with a weight in the space which gives the studio a stillness and solemnity that I am less used to. In the past month Sam has lost both of his Grandmothers, he tells me of his turmoil, specifically at seeing their houses emptied in preparation of them going to market, destined to be yet another holiday home perhaps. He talks of a growing sense of disconnection when place is so intwined with its people and how he has not only lost these matriarchs, but feels the loss of their whole way of life which goes with them. Naturally, I reel at this. The meeting ends, as Bassett rushes out the door, already late for Parents evening, got to go see what his young son, and chip of the old block, Jack Bassett, has been up to at school. Yes... life goes on.
For some time now Bassett’s works have remained constantly charged by that deep well of nostalgia and a palpable fear of threat and loss of a way of life under threat. This in many respects remains the case, however there is a subtle change of tempo. The great squall of threat and change has been tempered by a level of resignation but also acceptance that all things must pass. We reflect upon our time which becomes sedimentary foundation upon which the future is to be built, as we construct upon the bones and ordeals of our forebears. I concede that this is of course a melancholy notion but importantly, it is also one of liberation, hope and spiritual acceptance.
This shifting of emphasis could also in some way be attributed to Bassett relocating the setting of these works further west from the coastal community and now holiday town of St. Ives. A place which has become associated with a level of disconnect and symbol of erosive change for the artist who’s family have resided there since early 17th century, and seen the decline of its original community and industry in favour of a tourist toy town, now arguably owned by its visitors. The stage for this exhibition is the ancient land further West, out upon the moors, beside the cliffs with granite underfoot and either side. A place of sea crashed zawns where heavens press down heavy overhead. The timelessness of these Celtic lands has fed an eternal element into these works. Where Bassett’s deep immersion in this location has seen him metaphorically bury himself and his people within the earth, becoming a layer within the stone, leaching into the ocean and evaporating in to the sky. Without spiritual agenda, there is perhaps, something very pagan about these works, which results from an honest interaction with these ancient lands and perhaps from being one of its original people.
‘Hourglass’ is a laying to rest. It is an exhibition about time, loss, gain, love, the past, the future and the now. It is a love story to those who have left, those who are here and those who are next. Indeed we leave reminded that it takes many grains of sand to form a beach.
Joseph Clarke, 2019
ONLINE CATALOGUE (click below) :
Samuel Bassett is a British artist born Cornwall in 1982. He currently works from the prestigious Porthmeor Studio complex in St. Ives
Bassett’s language of mark-making varies from raw sweeping gestures to draughtsman-like drawn or sgraffitto schematics. His dexterity enables him to effortlessly capture scattered images of his inner monologue - often erratic, often pinpoint. The ups and downs. The highs and lows. His paintings could be described as a form of ‘psychological cubism’, where the inner and the outer self reveal themselves and coalesce. His autobiographical work maps a fast paced and over-active mind searching for the personal and universal meaning and in turn reflect both positive and negative concerns about 21st century society and the wider human condition.
His most recent works imbue a deep rooted connection to place, the sea and landscape, as well as community and heritage. The localised placement of these cautionary tales become allegorical for broader more universal hopes and wider loss, fear and disconnection.
St Ives has been his family’s home since 1695. The artistic traditions of the town had an undoubted influence over his development, but his Grandfather, a fisherman by trade was also a keen amateur painter, as was his other Grandfather in Newlyn. The young Bassett was supported early on with encouragement and painting materials. Bassett ’s studio space is part of a complex that coincidently sits above his Grandfather’s former net loft. He studied in Bournemouth, England and then lived in London but the pull of the sea brought him home. In addition to his own practice Bassett founded LETH projects, a curatorial platform for emergent artists. Bassett has exhibited internationally including four solo exhibitions at Anima Mundi, a solo exhibition at Kornfeld Gallery in Berlin and solo presentations at START at the Saatchi Gallery in London and CODE Art Fair, Copenhagen. Works are held in an increasing number of collections worldwide including the acquisition of the work ‘Lost Karensa’ by Tremenheere Sculpture Park which is permanently exhibited alongside James Turrell, Kishio Suga, Richard Long and David Nash among others. Bassett has been featured in numerous articles included Christies magazine and The New York post which is indicative of a notable and rapid increase in the artists popularity and ambition. Samuel Bassett is represented by Anima Mundi.