24 August - 21 September 2019
Sumer is pleased to present Bitter Winds, an exhibition of new paintings by Henry Curchod.
In each of these works (all 2019), a scenario appears to be in play. Curchod’s works invoke a clear sense of narrative, while remaining consistently opaque: as viewers, we are witness to neither introduction nor resolution. The ‘bitter winds’ of the title, a tempest, blow visibly through many of presented here and touch all the others with their curious, comical and lyrical flurry.
Dream-like spaces frame the encounters between figures and their surroundings; in these encounters, the figures are partially obliterated, receding into their ground, with the wind remaining ever-present. The paintings are sensational in the truest sense of the word: concerning themselves with surface, textures and movement—wind, water, translucent fabrics; shimmering light and warm shade.
Curchod’s willfully fragmentary approach to narrative, and his constant shift between visible brushwork and more naturalistic or mimetic rendering, both contribute to a disruption of the viewer’s physical relationship to the canvas. Velvet, lace or mesh dissolve in motion around the people, animals and objects that interrupt their space. The artist describes his approach to colour as ‘algebraic’: a sequence of decisions, assessed at each stage as an equation of the known and the yet-unknown. Such strong attention to building the interior logic of each work results in a series of works which, whilst entirely autonomous, are immediately legible as a whole.
Born in California and now based in Sydney, Curchod is of both Kurdish-Iranian and Anglo-American descent. He is fascinated by historical cross-pollination between cultures. Being a US citizen, he has never had the opportunity to visit Iran himself. His introduction to Persia, or rather Arabia, was through the Disney's Aladdin. He recounts that as a child watching the film for the first time, he was struck by the villain’s name, Ali Baba, being the same as his father’s. It was the first time he had ever encountered someone bearing his name.
The Persia of Cuchod’s work is a nostalgic Arcadia – an imagined pre-revolution Iran supplanted into the present. His paintings are visually informed by archetypes of folklore, and by traditional Persian paintings, rugs and decorative wares. At the same time, one can also see the strong influence of key movements in modern painting of the West: namely Art Nouveau, Expressionism and Surrealism. Curchod’s world is a place of poetry, jewels and silver, citrus and pomegranates, lamps, scimitars, fezes and flying carpets, domes and minarets; and yet champagne bottles, fire extinguishers and targets equally have roles in these dream-dramas – imaginings of a person yearning between irreconcilable places and times.