On first viewing the paintings of LA-based artist Alex Gardner, you are instantly struck by the anonymity of its figures. When observing a painting, the eye is often drawn towards the face for expressions of emotion, but here the eye is met instead by blank shapes and ambiguity. That being said, the paintings remain powerfully expressive, all outstretched limbs and curling bodies set against the soft pastel coloured landscapes in which these figures live.
While the figures are clearly influenced by classic Renaissance painting in their poses, gestures, and focus on the human body, the sparse landscapes and geometric shapes of the background nod towards more modern inspirations, notably Dali for the desolation of the landscapes and Picasso in the colour palettes. Tackling questions of identity and race throughout, Gardner chooses a rich black skin type that transcends social stereotypes and categorisation, while also opening the figures up to a colourful spectrum of interpretation.
The initial ambiguity of the paintings soon gives way to clarity as the eye traces the often violent movements of the limbs, unveiling the individual themes of each painting. In the painting entitled Triangle, for example, the male figures reach out desperately towards their female counterpart while she forcibly pushes one away while twisting her arm to tease the other. The themes of desire and rejection resound larger than their context, with the insatiable material greed of capitalism being one recurring motif of Gardner’s paintings.
With a Fine Art degree from California State University, Long Beach, Alex Gardner continues to work in his hometown of Los Angeles. His collection of paintings recently enjoyed a successful stint at The Dot Project in London, and you can see more of Alex’s work on his website or follow his Instagram account.
Words by Liam Roberts. Images property of Alex Gardner.