Gothic-tinged, etched in tender gloom, the wide-eyed, wary subjects of this series of paintings by Russon seem on the verge of being subsumed by the very canvas, creeping tendrils of paint bleeding onto the figures, the stark backgrounds insidiously working to claim the fragile beings, as if ready to absorb their forms. A precarious, tenuous hold on an inner equilibrium is evoked-a psychological soundness is at risk of defeat. Defenceless, in retreat, the characters appear to be one thought away from abnegation to forces from within and without the frame. Expressions ( bitter, peevishly resigned, exhausted) denote that no illusions are any longer harboured, hope is a con long extinguished. The dolls to which some cling, the pets beside others, lesson books open (all symbols and talismans of security, safety, escape) are no longer strength against the slide towards a greyish oblivion. Storms rage about, water rising-the title of the exhibition, Deluge, is apropos. Russon favours an austere vision-these are bare pieces, no flagrant embellishments or dramatic flourishes. For the people portrayed, there are no aesthetics with which to protect the self against some terrible truth. She works skilfully and with deft craft in multiple sizes (her miniatures are especially effective in isolating disquieting details)-winter has thoroughly settled into the sinew and flesh of these poor souls, mind and body enervated, speaking only of loss and loneliness. And yet the softness and the delicacy of this gaze into the bleak prevents the works from being overburdened with darkness. Both the oddly melancholy eccentrics of Tim Burton and the gentlemanly grotesques of Edward Gorey may drift through the mind as you walk the gallery. Deluge continues through 23 June


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