Chris Appleby
The City Staged
Private View Tuesday 30 September, 2003, 6pm to 8pm
Exhibition 31 September ­ 23 October
Main Gallery



We are delighted to present The City Staged, Chris Appleby’s first exhibition with Art First.

Since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1978, Appleby has moved through three painter’s strategies as he calls them. The first, that of a young and desperate man, was ‘Zen painting’; the second, that of an older and chastened man, was ‘planning’, and the third, begun a couple of years ago, he describes as ‘unconditional’. It is studio time itself that has become precious, and likewise, that passive blank rectangle - the perfect space on which to wonder. As David Drane puts it, ‘Appleby shows us that good painting is much more than paint, but that it can only become so through paint’.

During the thirty years he has known and admired Chris Appleby’s work, David Drane observes in the exhibition catalogue essay that ‘the influences working on him have been both subtle and compelling, particular and numerous - often simultaneously gentle and brutal in the demands they have made upon him. One of his great strengths as a painter is the realization that ultimately all has to be resolved in terms of his chosen medium, that, in the end, it is just painting.’

The elements of social observation in the paintings stem from a passionate interest in theatre and from living and working in London itself - specifically the City - over the past decade. Everyday dramas which alter states of being are the principal subject of these works. Elements of graffiti often capture a fleeting thought or a wry comment relating to the scene depicted. The paint is richly applied with thick ochre and clay sometimes washed over a glint of silver to allow a flash of light, or to open up a space.

The City Staged paintings offer us not only works of beguiling accomplishment but also present real insights into the painter’s world. Figures drawn in outline sit alone deep in thought, perhaps in a studio or even a theatre, or they step onto a stage full of gesture, charged with transformational energy. City skyscrapers describe a background as characters in dialogue play out some role in the office. There is often a single figure seen with magnificent ancient Greek pots. These refer to the artist’s fascination with early Greek theatre and with the role played by philosophers and poets in relation to that of artisans and embellishers of pots in a classic society of small complex cities within a simple rural economy. The word versus clay, mind over matter. Does society ever really change?