Compass Gallery, Glasgow
12 Mar 2020 – 4 Apr 2020
“Prudence Perched in Paris” is an exhibition at Compass Gallery displaying the work of Adrian Wiszniewki RSA RGI, on until April 4th 2020. Wiszniewski is a Scottish artist of Polish descent and graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 1984. Wiszniewski’s debut solo show was at Compass Gallery where he went on to breathe new life into figurative painting and become part of a group of Scottish artists called the New Glasgow Boys. He has also received global success and his work is housed in some of the greatest public collections such as Tate Britain, London and Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Wiszniewki has a vibrant and unique charm to his work, his style is reminiscent of Matisse’s line drawings merged with the mystical fascination and decorative elements of Pre-Raphaelite paintings or a William Blake illustration. At the Compass Gallery, the exhibition’s artwork is presented alongside the gallery’s collection, which creates an inviting and homely space further enhancing the mystical and folk style imagery of the artworks.
The exhibition as a whole gave the sensation of the mythical being propelled into modernity. One painting depicts two men laying opposite each other. The composition appears to reference Botticelli’s iconic Venus and Mars (1483) but Wiszniewki instead presents a brightly moonlit male couple wearing shirts and ties. It is a crisp, allusive, and modern depiction of a classical narrative.
The exhibition extensively displays Wiszniewki’s varied disposition to colour. In the landscapes colour becomes form. For example, in Postcard from Japan, the trees are defined in bold oranges and reds that twist and recede into the canvas as warm greens and ultramarine blues project towards us from behind and satisfy the senses. Later colour is used in a completely different manner in a selection of his portraits, such as in Two Revolutionaries i where a vast spectrum of colours structure their faces. The colours are glowing as strokes of bright yellow and green emanate out the canvas. Wiszniewski creates a unique sense of depth and perspective with each of the various ways colour is utilised, pulling you in like a dream.
In parts of the exhibition colour is absent and instead the textures and details of the material are investigated. A few portraits are composed of an opaque background colour that frames a portrait on raw canvas where the details of the face are embellished. I was drawn into these paintings, examining how the rough canvas can make such an elegant face.
Each figure is truly unique throughout the exhibition. There is a selection of figures in pen that are reminiscent of a Matisse. The figures are small bursts of personality and with different coloured backgrounds to highlight the subject matter. However, there are many paintings that are completely absent of colour which are just as enchanting. Of these, Oubliette attracted my attention the most. It is an abstract scene of two figures in a tight space, the walls have the texture of bark or perhaps white noise. There is a large set of legs with underwear hanging from the feet which also possess the bark-like texture. It is unclear if the legs are menacing or the next prisoner, as two figures sleep below the feet. It is enchanting and mysterious to look at, and one of my highlights.
Wiszniewki’s exhibition at Compass Gallery is a delight to experience. The work is dynamic, elegant and mystical in this cosy gallery in the centre of Glasgow.