July 5, 2019 from 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
How Not to Disappear Completely – Opening Party
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How Not to Disappear Completely – Simon Willems
2 July-14 July 2019
Opening party: Friday 5 July, 6-9pm
Elephant West is pleased to present How Not to Disappear Completely, a solo exhibition of recent paintings by British artist, Simon Willems. Featuring images of corporate team-building activities being played out in hermit landscapes taken from art history, this body of work is the culmination of a practice-based PhD at the University of Reading, in which Willems considers how anonymity is characterised within contemporary figurative painting through a paradox of presenting whilst retreating. Inspired in part by the late hermit Tom Leppard – otherwise known as the Leopard Man of Skye for his wildcat tattoos, with which he sought publicity to fund his isolation – Willems explores the idea of withdrawal as a performance engendering contradiction.
Taking Leppard’s decision to surrender twenty years of self-imposed exile on the Isle of Skye in 2008, in order to book himself into a local retirement home, Willems treats Leppard as a catalyst for reframing the image of isolation as a site of fabrication. Muted and lunar-like, Willems’ paintings appear otherworldly and slow, deploying porous layers of paint that striated and scraped through, suggest decaying tapestries; where in one piece corporate fun is taken up in a rocky outpost peppered with paintball splatters, in another figures edge towards the viewer using wooden planks and car tyres. In focusing on the team through the lens of organisational power Willems anchors the exhibition with a fountain of customised lanyards, repeating the show’s title in a child’s handwriting.