Sean Kuruneru, Katie Lyle, Vincent Lafrance, Natalie Reis, Lorraine Simms: Images of Romantic Distress and Consoloation

Works in the exhibition

We all know about love poetry and romantic novels; movies about relationships that make people cry; and postcards and TV commercials that do the same – but what about art? Is there any with that power? And even if we feel convinced that such works exist (or do not), how do they work? Can visual art address us emotionally in this way so that when we see it we cannot avoid a confrontation with the amorous, the loving side of ourselves? It’s obvious that imagery has great power: to provoke, to excite, to propagandize and to advertise; even to arouse or disgust. These it does fairly easily. But to distress or console the way a love song does, sad or happy, is more difficult – or is it? Maybe we need to look more closely, and past or perhaps through the formal qualities that visual artists (as opposed to advertisers) insist on inscribing into the matrix of their images. Maybe we’d find a unique and new kind of romantic distress and consolation. This exhibition attempts to shine a light on the problem at hand, dig up some answers to our questions, and too, to give some examples of how it can be done.

Shawn Kuruneru’s recent work proposes a twist on the notion that we must undermine the autograph mark the hand makes, and all of the existential assumptions that expressionist position has historically carried. His process points towards the ironically self-undermining – the ‘authenticity’ involved reduces to an identity that may not exist. His work consists of unique ink-jet photocopies of drawings he does by hand, but does not exhibit. He interposes a funny layer of loss between us and the picture he creates.

Vincent Lafrance is a photographer whose work suggests that remove, quiet, and apparent peacefulness can be as provocative and emotionally incendiary as their putative opposites. Whether he shoots the figure or not, a large space or a small, every one of his images is suffused with calming sadness, and an aura of the inexplicable. He makes things that are obvious a little harder to see, but will show us why when we ask.

Katie Lyle’s exhibited collage works, intricate and darkly beautiful, certainly do speak of dislocation, and possibly also of heartbreak. Longing is examined from many angles as something felt, expressed and symbolized by the figure. Side by side with felt emotions, a whole language of possible romantic situations is proposed: youthful sentimentality and what can be called adult persuasions co-exist, and body parts act as synecdochical presences and absences, isolated even from themselves.

Natalie Reis is interested in the notion of multiples – multiple works and multiple images. She wonders if the lives of all people can be stated in terms of one person: and if we are interchangeable, then do our emotions ‘mean’ anything? Her works question the act of representation, and draw a parallel between it and the act of emoting; while pointing out the evidently true fact that we may already have experienced what we supposedly uniquely feel at a given moment, and will again.

Lorraine Simms’ new body of work spans a large battleground of subject and circumstance. She explores the themes of tragedy and comedy from many angles; but always situates an artificial cover into the proceedings, sometimes literally by masking a figure in a heightened emotional state. We must proceed to ask unanswerable questions, and realize that the artist, in being a kind of magician, is also a formidable riddler.

For more information on the artist