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Rachel Howard at Intragallery, Naples

October 3, 2016 by Mary

The symbolism of the number three is almost infinite. Seen in the myths of all civilizations, in all latitudes, it is considered the "perfect number", as an expression of the Triad or Trinity. It is the spiritual symbol of the plant stretching its branches (trifurcation) and the Pythagoreans considered it sacred because it allows you to draw the triangle, perfect figure. Limiting ourselves to the Greek mythology, the Fates, the Furies, the Graces, were always three in number. “Three” is the product of the union between “One”, the active ingredient and “Two”, the womb that welcomes the creation. We can define it the first product of thought that multiplies and expands. It encompasses the concept of union and expansion. The symbolism of the number three is encoded in the visual arts through the long tradition of the "triptych" that from the beginning of Christian art continues and spreads in Byzantine and Gothic up to modern art. Somehow, just think of the triptych of Monet's Water Lilies at MoMA in New York, or the famous triptych by Francis Bacon or Cy Twombly, the division into three acts as a link between the history of painting and the present trial.


In this context, the exhibition Three Triptychs has three variations on the theme on the compositional tradition of the triptych by three British artists, from different generations and paths, but linked by a critical interpretation of the pictorial medium, revisited in architectural and three-dimensional key.

David Batchelor work focuses on the relationship with the generated colours of the urban environment and stressed on how we see them, and how we react to their physical and psychological stress in the technological age in which we live. In the exhibition’s triptych, the artist has collected a number of old light boxes, the kind that shops and restaurants usually advertise (and which, it is said, are one of the main sources of colour in a city), has cleaned them and mounted so as to form vertical installations. The colours from the light boxes are reflected against the wall, and the public perceives them seeing only through their reflection. An artificial and sublime sunset at the same time experienced through the skyline of the boxes and their random arrangement.

The visual and psychological power of colour characterise the work of Rachel Howard, the emotional charge of how the paint is applied to a canvas, the reproduction of the state of mind and body while the picture is being painted. The scale ratios, space, and depth are also part of the impact of these works. In her most recent works, she explores the continuous alternation relationship between background and foreground. In the triptych exhibited at Intragallery, Howard alternates and mixes without rules or hierarchies three moments and adages of contemporary painting, figuration, abstraction and the two-dimensional representation of a wall of a three-dimensional object, in this case, a crutch for clothes, which ironically recalls Trap hanger (1917) by Marcel Duchamp.

In the work of Henrietta Labouchere, we are witnessing a process of accumulation and constant erase signs and suggestions, shades and traces of figuration, processed and diluted over time, giving rise to a representation and an independent interpretation. In the triptych on show, the three panels freely inspired by tissues of kosode and Japanese screens of the Edo period are displayed in ascending order. They are aligned from below; their mass and their thickness contrast with the ethereal lightness of their parietal exposure. Inspired by the idea of the rims of kosode, the artist chose twelve typical colours of old Edo kimono, applying many layers of rabbit glue, painting shades through a sophisticated sanding process, making small marks looking like scars. 

Three Triptychs: 29 September – 12 November 2016
Intragalery, Via Cavallerizza a Chiaia 57, Napoli, 80121