The extraordinary and extravagant colour fields of the works on display by artist Vanessa Mitter are what initially arrest the senses in the otherwise sedate rooms of this South London gallery (a favourite space), the dense concentration of hues coalescing into a vivid aesthetic wallop-a viewer is with great and helpless immediacy immersed in the frame. Female figures resolve themselves from behind the ecstatic squalls of colour, emerging from the gilded weight of (cultural, gender) expectation and assumption-they remain resolute and unswervingly present against forces which may seek to bury or suppress them, a vulnerability suggested but not one which will easily allow for erasure or disposal. The fight is embodied in the very process of Mitter’s style, a thick and crowded, fraught overlay of patterning and collage to convey a degree of suffocation and excess (despite from which a pattern on a dress and gesture of eye, as in Because the Poppies Said So, or directionally balanced sharp daubs of white outlining the central figure in Havisham may with sudden vertical gravity break free of what would attempt to claim it). It’s a unified theme throughout the works, even those that don’t contain a human figure-in the back of each is a force that endeavours to break forth. A great pulsing energy beats at the core of Mitter’s work, and she is generous in giving the viewer ample space to interpret the work subjectively-imagery is not so controlled as to be contrived and absolute. The fact that many of the images remain unresolved only heightens and deepens their allure as exquisite mysteries (a few days later my mind is still reeling and endlessly recalibrating the placement of the woman in Theatre of Life-is she seated at a window or outside of it, is she linked to the spill of colour beneath her, is it in fact a dress-all questions which resist certainty).  Doireann Ni Ghrioghair’s playful deflated classical architectural columns (a product of placing latex casts of existing features from Dublin Castle in very flimsy, unsteady moulds) are placed strategically about the gallery floors, so spectacular and glorious in their upheaval of shape and form that they create an entirely new, forthright paradigm that is its own authority. An image representative of strength and power and license and rigour has crumpled into something altogether softer and imperfect, but still wholly itself, with even a stain and blemish of colour forming, as if an essence leaking out from a closely guarded hard exterior. The works are a frisky and exuberant denunciation of boastful ideals of privilege and entitlement, reduced to more truthful dimensions. I AM A BEAUTIFUL MONSTER continues through 30 June







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