Is it possible to tell a story in a painting? Well, maybe not in the sense of "beginning, middle and end". But paintings can suggest a narrative. They can present one reality while hinting tantalisingly at another. And there are few better at this than Rachel Deacon, whom the Catto Gallery is pleased to welcome back for her second show.
Deacon is quite open in her passion for story telling. She regularly uses the written word as inspiration for her work, fixing on a poem or short story as the start point for a series of sketches that will evolve into the finished piece.
This is how Deacon imbues her luminous oil paintings with mystery and ambiguity. Take Green Tips And Roots from the new collection: two beautiful ruby-lipped women delicately peel a barrel of juicy apples. They are quite demure, with their downcast eyes and buttoned up floral blouses. A dog looks up wistfully. But these women are in a forest, and they have apples. The suggestion of sin is never far away...
In another multi-layered work, Darkness, a reclining woman shares the canvas with a jet black raven. It's a startling image conjured by an artist in total control of the narrative. But just when you think Rachel Deacon's imagination is full of nocturnal transgression, she serves up something like A Tender Token and we're plunged into a world of home cooking and domestic contentment.
What unites all these works, of course, is the flair of their execution. They may be modern in their sensibility, but in terms of composition they look back to the classical masters. The three part harmony of Tempting Virtue? There's Titian and Raphael in there, and certainly later classicists like Ingres. The debt is even more explicit in The Fall Of The Waves.
The artist is happy with this classical precedent. She says: "I embrace the tradition of the classical compostion, and the presenting of an archetypal view. This helps in the re-telling of the story I am working from."
Rachel Deacon has been story-telling on canvas since leaving the Chelsea School of Art in 1991. Every year her immense talent gathers more fans.
See for yourself at this new Catto exhibition. Big shimmering works full of glamour and mystery. With the odd owl. And cakes.
If you would like to enquire about this artist or about buying their work you can call us: +44 (0) 20 7435 6660
use the form or email us at: email@example.com