Somaya Critchlow Time Never Mattered

Somaya Critchlow

Time Never Mattered

November 17 – December 29, 2018

Opening Reception: Saturday, November 17th, 6-8 pm

 Somaya Critchlow , Toochka,  2018, oil on canvas, 9 x 7.6 inches

Somaya Critchlow, Toochka, 2018, oil on canvas, 9 x 7.6 inches

Efrain Lopez Projects is proud to present Time Never Mattered, the first solo exhibition by the London-based artist Somaya Critchlow. The exhibition opens with a public reception for the artist on Saturday, November 17th, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Time Never Mattered evokes the immersive reverie an artist can attain through drawing and painting, and the imagistic world-building these processes advance. In a new series of miniature paintings (all works 2018) Somaya Critchlow presents heroines who are themselves unmoored in time and space, emerging starkly against backdrops of thinned oils evocative of the atmospheric monochromatic backgrounds found in early modern European portrait miniatures. Like many miniatures of aristocrats past, Critchlow’s subjects are stylized to the point of appearing otherworldly: a serene expression is offset by swirling tendrils of seemingly animate hair (Etruscan Miniature); a withholding posture fails to reign in a bulging voluptuous figure (Little Lover). Though their features are generalized to the point where each work could conceivably picture the same woman, each appears emphatically self-possessed. Scaled in an intimate relationship to the viewer’s body, Critchlow’s paintings gesture towards a tradition of miniatures fitted to small books, boxes, and lockets treasured by private individuals, anomalies in histories of Western painting that typically conflate the terms “large” and “heroic.”

Most young people train themselves to draw from photographs, as Critchlow herself did before embarking on her formal training at the University of Brighton and later the Royal Drawing School in London. These self-directed studies in picture-making are mediated not by instructors but directly through other pictures, typically the glossy dispatches of celebrity culture and the fantastical worlds of cartoons. Cowboy Bebop exhibits the buoyant femininity prized in both of these realms, swapping the male anime character to which the title refers with a buxom woman sporting only denim chaps, a poised expression, and a posture of readiness for action. Tommy withholds from the viewer both one hand concealed behind her back and her own gaze, as she appears to be gathering her strength to meet a challenge of unknown dimensions, equipped only with her black bikini. These works especially gesture towards the stripper culture featured prominently in the Love & Hip Hop reality TV franchise, a formative influence on Critchlow’s work. The shows, which feature all-black casts and focus particularly on the tribulations of black women, starkly counter the milieu of Critchlow’s art education, in which she encountered not a single instructor who looked like her. A history of Western art that scans as a parade of nearly-exclusively white faces compounds this dispiriting reality. Critchlow’s forging of an imagistic “unreal” inspired by literally two-dimensional subjects thus exposes its very real stakes: possibility must always be first affirmed through its imagining.  

Somaya Critchlow (b. 1993, London) lives and works in London. She received a BFA from University of Brighton in 2016.  Somaya has recently exhibited at Pignano Art Gallery, Voltera Pisa, Italy (2017), with the Sassoon Gallery (London) at the 2017 Folkestone Triennial, and at ArtLacuna, London (2016). She will present a solo exhibition of new work at Maximillian William, London, UK in 2019.