Objects in the Forest is the title of a painting by 20th Century Italian artist, poet and composer, Alberto Savinio, the brother of painter Giorgio de Chirico. Little known here, Savinio's heightened, metaphysical painting, with spatial and illusory elements in relation to each other, provides the key or basis, to this selection of paintings by six contemporary artists.
The works in this exhibition carry a use of material and reference that brings printed matter, colour and stylistic range all to an equal front. Each painting, independently secure in its use of colour, space and touch, seems to bypass the construction of atmosphere and go past the apparent reality of things.
From Caragh Thuring's touchingly spare linear reference to place in Dutch painting through to the abstract but spatial and illusory set of paintings by William Stein. From Jill Mason's lucid sideways landscape constructions punctuated with high colour pimples and pinnacles to Ellen MacDonald's cartoon wigwam signs and directions to a something that has already happened, the works are hung in happy relation to each other. Bernhard Martins' fanciful moon leans, in this context alone, almost towards the literal, while Medrie MacPhee's brightly coloured stage has been set out of historical repertoire.
There is no outmoded postmodern approach here. Although the artists concerned are innocent of any suggested relationship to Savinio and metaphysical painting, their use of rationale within the surface of each canvas encourages cross-reference.
A sense of representation, moment, happening, even the absurd at times, is played out through three architectural levels at Sadler's Wells.
© Sacha Craddock 2009