Dirimart is pleased to present the first solo exhibition of Christopher Page with the gallery Fading Light in the Picture Gallery. As in its name, the exhibition is composed of paintings that play with light or with the disappearance of it. The three recognizable subjects Page tackles with: mirrors, windows, and painting of paintings are on view and for the first time introduced are the new shadows in the painting of paintings. Acknowledging the scope of Page’s wizardry in faceting the two dimensional into three, the gallery space becomes a reflection of the central workings of the paintings.
This exhibition is a mise-en-scène that is also a mise-en-abyme. In the main gallery space, we find ourselves in an abstracted picture gallery, painted red (as picture galleries historically were in England and elsewhere) containing paintings that are in fact paintings of paintings. The picture gallery and its windows are also a painting, painted directly onto the walls of the real gallery. So we have an illusory gallery within a real gallery containing real paintings of illusory paintings. Through the tall windows we see a burning sky that feels both plausible and unreal, both distant and worryingly close. The burning sky appears to cast light upon the paintings, but both its light and the shadows it seems to cast are painted effects.
This mise-en-scène is a dream image, a condensation that draws from certain moments in art history in order to reflect on our artificial world today. The paintings appear to be modernist monochromes mounted within colourful frames, though these, like everything else, are painted illusions. The fashion for red picture galleries was at its height in England, in the tumultuous Georgian era—the time of Turner and Constable, of whom we might also feel echoes in this exhibition—perhaps because of the excavations of Pompeii that began in the 18th century. Red is a regular feature of Pompeiian frescoes, as is the curious appearance of painted representations of paintings—paintings of paintings that appear to hang on the walls, but are in fact illusions. Indeed, it was after his first trip to Pompeii and to the Naples Archaeological Museum that Page began painting his own “paintings of paintings.”
This dream-like, abyssal condensation puts the experience of looking at paintings in a gallery at one remove. We are not just in a gallery looking at paintings, but in a gallery in a gallery looking at paintings of paintings. And yet this is not a cool, ironic distance—the tone of this mise-en-scène, while colourful and synthetic, is distinctly charged with melancholia and apocalyptic brooding.
The apocalyptic brooding continues into the next room, a green one containing a single window painting through which we see that fiery sky looming again. A more subdued melancholia pervades the final room, a grey one in which three blank mirrors do not reflect us back. In these paintings, our eyes struggle to adjust to the space in these surfaces. Are we looking through them, into the “room” that is suggested in their apparent reflection, or are we looking at their delicately modulated surfaces? Can we locate ourselves within them, or do we become but ghostly observers of this evacuated scene?
Fading Light in the Picture Gallery is a layered meditation upon painting, images, and artifice. Page’s illusionistic paintings are not faithful representations of objects from life. They are paintings that represent phenomena implicitly, representations of representations—the sheen in Page’s mirrors is more like a Photoshop effect than any actual reflective surface; the shadows are composed by the artist with the aid of a computer, not observed from the light in his studio. Hence, his work reflects on the mediation of our experience, how the world today feels at one remove from us. How might we locate ourselves in a world that feels so intangible, so unreal? And if we cannot dispense entirely with illusions, how at least might we dream up better ones? With the world beyond our façades becoming ever more tumultuous, the question is a burning one.
Christopher Page (b. 1984). He received his MFA from Yale School of Art in 2011. His works explore abstraction and representation by combining hard-edged compositional strategies with illusionistic painting techniques. He produces visual paradoxes and complicate the ongoing dialogue between light and space. His works deepens the complex relationship between the imaginary and the symbolic registers in the architectural space. He is an editor of Effects, a journal of art, poetry and essays. His solo exhibitions include Knots (with Clementine Keith-Roach), P.P.O.W, New York (2022); Shadows & Reﬂections, Ben Hunter, London (2020); The Four Seasons, Bill Brady, Miami (2019); Opening, Baert, Los Angeles (2018); Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro (2017); Residuals (curated by Chris Sharp), Instituto Inclusartiz, Rio de Janeiro (2016); Dawn, Hunter/Whitﬁeld, London (2015); Pictures, Sushi Bar Gallery, New York (2014); Bespoke Solutions, Hannah Barry Gallery, London (2012). His important group exhibitions are: Public Gallery, London (2022); Art Basel Miami Beach (2021); Nitra Gallery, Athens (2016); and Gerald Moore, London (2014). His works are included in public collections of Museu de Arte Modern, Rio De Janeiro and The Potteries Museum & Gallery in UK. He lives and works in Dorset.