Francisco Lobo & Mathew Newton

5 April - 10 May 2015


Whitecross Gallery is pleased to present ‘Grotto’, a new work by two recent Royal College of Art graduates, Francisco Lobo and Mathew Newton.  It is the first time that these two artists have worked together, and although individually their work can appear quite different, this collaboration unites them in exploring common themes, ideas and influences within both their artistic practices.

‘Grotto’ evolved from a desire to explore how a family of artworks could, through a cumulative process, be made to participate with each other in a protective or intimate way. Here the word ‘grotto’ stands both for home and place of disquiet, constructed protection and threat of collapse. It invokes the immersion of the subject inside his own play, and at the same time the artificiality or sharpness of this endeavour. A binding principle for ‘Grotto’ is the coincidence of a sense of immersion in sculpted space and the representation of immersed figures and tragic sculptural sets.

This work is a collaborative project where an over-arching structure is both the starting point and the environment within which smaller artworks are presented.  It is also an effort to recover and rethink interdependence and staged links between painting, sculpture and print.   

A prospective sculptural intervention fills the gallery space, creating a maze in which the viewer can roam. Wooden constructions and colourful sculptures are incorporated into the walls and floor, clustering around painted mirrors, and reworking boundaries between artworks, gallery walls and viewers.

The painted mirrors, prints and drawings operate as catalysts and focal points within the overall intervention.  There is a correspondence between the situation of the viewer and the smaller works in which the human figure is staged as somehow submerged and lost inside its own theatre. In the painted mirrors, figures bathe in ghostly fashion, dissolving into their domestic environment, as if in precarious retreat. In other drawings and prints these figures reappear, diving for protection, or smearing their own faces in a manner reminiscent of an observation by J.G.Ballard: “in the shaving mirror the nurses held up to my face I resembled an alarmed contortionist, startled by his own deviant anatomy”. 

In the woodcut prints the human figure tampers with crosses, trying to see through them, or engaging with them, drawing parallels between the promises inherent in religious thought and our expectations regarding the artwork and the artist.  Several drawings document and parallel the design of the intervention itself – the sculptural elements are left alone, as an incomplete stage set, calling for attention.