Submitted Review

Nicholas Ives, ‘Sunset Roads’. Presented by Black Art Projects

  • Marfa Gallery • Abbotsford

  • Donald Holt • Published 01 April 2020

Firstly, this was an extremely clandestine experience. Assignations, hesitation, doors propped open with large stones. Personal safety can be very weird. In some way this may have heightened the viewing, but awkward tensions have always been in Ives’ work.

Beside the arrival protocols, you arrive in a large daylit room with large paintings. This disorienting scale change was a pleasant surprise. I am accustomed to his medium scaled pictures where the sensation is as if you are peering through an eye glass, seeing a small fragment of some expanding worlds. The large paintings successfully carry this glimpsed quality.

Backgrounds are very atmospheric & loosely constructed but with high pathos creating instances of weather in the images. In the captured frame instruments, manic clocks & Disney (ish) bluebirds whirl. At a distance their composition & rendering seem determined but closely they are delicious in their economy, revealing the temporal act of painting without fully betraying it.

‘A plump dopey seated rat in a buttoned vest’

The large room is broken by freestanding walls creating a labyrinthine track where works seem more detailed as the volumes compress.

A suite smaller of works interlaced through the installation are framed, halting the leaky quality of Ives’ images, focussing on portraits of moods more so than semblances. Still ungrounded & tempestuous these works give intensity & effect of the breadth of Ives’ skill. Three large works flanking the entrance are so loose that questions of finality occur but with nicely creepy results.

The only grounded characters seem to be rats, either bacchanalian before a detached fairy-tale aeries or solid character filled portraits. The most grounded is a plump dopey seated rat in a buttoned vest. His weight reinforced by a dense purple shadow. Could he be our collective fate or is he our current ministers dumbfounded by their real-world duties?

Donald Holt

‘Sunset Roads’ is presented by
Black Art Projects at Marfa, Abbotsford.
Viewable online.
Issued out of time due to COVID procedures.