Eleanor Moreton's first solo show at the gallery, Im Wartezimmer (In the Waiting Room), featured a series of new paintings that interrogated the past, both the historical - specifically that of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and England in the 19th and early 20th centuries - and the personal past. For Moreton, these collective and personal histories meet in our idea of home:
"Many 19th and early 20th century Austrian dwellings would have contained a portrait of Emperor Franz Joseph who headed the Austrian Empire from 1848 to 1916. During this time, whilst heading an oppressive and discontented Empire, he cultivated the persona of the simple, avuncular Austrian man. I was both attracted to and repelled by this representation and I both wanted to believe in it but knew it was unbelievable. It is a manifestation of repressed sexuality, the unspoken, the oppression of tradition, as well as an expression of my own longing for a safe and containing world. In this painting, taken from a photographic portrait of Franz Joseph late in his life, I feel that I managed temporarily to escape the authoritative grip of the photograph".
Her portraits reveal isolated individuals, comi-tragic oppressors, androgynous, repressed queens and murdered lovers. With an acute sense of undermining her own authority as a painter, she incorporates colour, washes and brush work that serve to highlight the lack in every image, every moment, every relationship - from romantic idyll landscapes to people free, yet haunted interiors. She undermines and challenges the tyranny of memory and ideology, revealing what (if anything) lies beneath. Moreton sees her paintings as an attempt to release herself from her own memories and also the source material she works with, to unlock something which is hidden within the image and to unpack the sentimental. Intimate Moments with Eminent Men (AL waving, orange), 2009, for example, is taken from a photographic portrait of Adolf Loos, the Austrian architect whose work is pivotal in the transition from 19th century traditional Austrian culture to Modernism. Moreton was drawn to his essay 'Ornament and Crime', because of her own ideas on pattern, the feminine and the vernacular: "It is hard to know, in Ornament and Crime, how much Loos' essay is written tongue in cheek, but his photographic portrait does not look like that of a radical: it could hardly be more authoritarian and uptight. I find images in general authoritative and difficult to impose myself upon. Much of my own practice concerns how I might respond to their authority".
For more information on the exhibition and the artist please contact Ceri Hand, Leila Aitken or Lucy Johnston at firstname.lastname@example.org, 0044(0) 151 207 0899 or visit www.cerihand.co.uk