Lydia Blakeley: Looks like you’ve reached the end
Hannah Barry Gallery, London
Written on the occation of Looks like you’ve reached the end, a solo exhibition of work by Lydia Blakeley presented by Hannah Barry Gallery as part of the London Vortic Collective (18 July – 8 August 2020).
The exhibition text focused on Blakelely appropriated of online imagery and fascination with contemporary forms of spectace, either through digital emphemera or the quasi-regalia of British sporting championships.
London Collective brings together 40 of London’s leading contemporary galleries on the new extended reality and virtual exhibition platform, Vortic Collect.
“It is with banal tragedy that Google Images thus assert their terminal caption, “Looks like you’ve reached the end.” The proposition is satirical, bordering humour with ignominy—an ambiguity that speaks to the unique ability of Blakeley’s work to capture the contradictory affects of the digital world, more connected and alienated than ever before. To hit a blank wall online appears the subject of subtle derision or melancholy: to have drifted aimlessly off the map. Captured in a shellac photorealism, Blakeley’s works are equally aware of the insidious inertia of our time spent online as they are exultant and celebratory of our creative engagement with images in a variety of new formats; their power to be replicated, remediated and shared in dizzying fashion. Reproduction, collage and dissemination are most welcome.
Blakeley’ works are humorous. They poke and grin at our mindless scrolling, the exhaustive randomness of visual ephemera that accrues in our iPhones or browser history—what poet and critic Kenneth Goldsmith sincerely calls “the new memoir.” Persian Cat Room Guardian memes are painted from numerous angles—blissfully gormless and serene; the revelry and aftermath of British quasi-regalia exposed in all its unsavoury excess. These are characters and contexts Blakelely has a shared proximity to—born and raised in Berkshire, England, a witness to the chaotic underbelly of fine spectacle. But also as an enveloped consumer—like many of us—of a new global economy of signs siphoning through Instagram, Twitter and TikTok, through fashion editorials of The Face, Elle or Vogue or in rehashed prints of Pauline Boty or Amy Sherald. Tabloid moments of vice, indulgence and luxury hand in hand with chucklesome retweets and bizarre screenshots.
Through bright pink underlays washed over with layers of colour, Blakeley paintings presents her work with an eerie hollowness: a visual meditation on the screen as much as it is a subtle evocation of real depthlessness. An imaginary archetype or imperfect cliché that haunts their jovial wink. As Blakelely herself notes, “Underneath that humour there’s a darkness, maybe a sadness too.” Besieged with visual ephemera from day’s start to end, the implication of its absence is eschatology: looks like you’ve reached the end. Blakeley’s work is engaged with the power of images and image-making on its own terms, as a series of shifting velocities and affects—none of which can be claimed by a sole author or with prescriptive intent. Rather, with spontaneity and subversion. As Goldsmith optimistically notes, “There is no road map for this territory.”.”