Cob Gallery is proud to present a group exhibition of work by Tomas Harker, Jack Jubb, Mia Middleton and Caroline Zurmely. Borrowing its name from the Greek word meaning to ward off or avert evil, ‘Apotrope’ brings together four artists who share an understanding of painting as an alchemical process: a material transformation that invests its subjects with magical energy.
In still-life compositions that seem to elevate one or a small number of things to the status of totems or fetishes, these four artists use framing, scale and the enrichment of surface as forms of abstraction. Starting with heterogenous source material often drawn from the internet or other screen media, their work sounds out the ambiguous zone between the digital and the physical in a present flooded by cheap imagery and endlessly repeated cycles of stimulation and fulfilment.
Tomas Harker’s large-scale oil paintings address the nature of meaning in a heavily mediated world saturated by the hyper-real – that is, copies for which there is no longer any original. Interested in technology’s flattening of conventional formal hierarchies, he translates digital imagery into paint ‘to interrupt the groundlessness associated with the sense of continual semiotic free-fall’.
Caroline Zurmely, working in the unusual medium of nail varnish, depicts scenes drawn from the tabloid press and public mourning. Her tightly cropped images disrupt our sense of distance, bringing about a conjoined sense of intricate intimacy and glossy inaccessibility that corresponds with the multiple status of nail varnish itself as both embellishment and barrier, performance and concealment.
Jack Jubb’s airbrush painting, applied to recycled paper and fabrics, examines the material basis of screen imagery and its afterlives. Gathering banal, discarded, often degraded source material online, he transforms this into reflections on the clash of ephemerality and permanence in the digital age, raising difficult questions about truth, memory, nostalgia and fantasy as he does so.
Mia Middleton, working in oil paint on a small scale, is prompted by clashes of immediacy and duration, familiarity and strangeness, chaos and control. Detaching her source imagery from its eclectic contexts, she creates ambiguous prompts devoid of clear narrative or temporality, drawing out dissonances of feeling as she cultivates an aesthetic of unresolved intrigue across the series of works on show.
In a contemporary characterised by visual noise and the collapse of reality into its replicas, these artists supply protective charms to guide us through the night. Seen together, their position as part of a distinctive tendency emerges into view: a reinvention of the still-life for our overloaded age.
Tomas Harker’s painting address the nature of meaning in conditions of mediated experience and hyperreal saturation. Sources are treated indiscriminately of hierarchical values, collected from varied systems of image production and distribution. These include film screen shots, iPhone photos, art history and social media. The subjective and physical presence of painting is used as a means to interrupt the groundlessness associated with the sense of continual semiotic free-fall. Complex histories behind images are drawn upon, exploring new sets of associations. The paintings are often ambivalent or foreboding, they resist easy travel as non-linear narratives are subsequently created.
Tomas Harker lives and works in London. Solo exhibitions include I haven’t been Sleeping, Screw Gallery, Leeds, UK (2021); Third Nature, Copeland Gallery, London, UK (2021); A Sea in Suspense, Bo.lee Gallery, London, UK (2019). Group exhibitions include Apotrope, Cob Gallery, London, UK (2022); Bloomberg New Contemporaries, South London Gallery, London, UK (2021); There’s something about Painting, Tatjana Pieters, Ghent, Belgium (2019); Cite, Bo.lee gallery, London, UK (2018); Syzygy, Leeds Arts University, Leeds, UK (2018). In 2018, Harker was awarded the Ingram Collection purchase prize. Mia Middleton is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Sydney, Australia whose varied practice spans sculpture, assemblage, painting, mixed media and video. Disembodied biological forms and hybridised objects populate her work, forming a kind of relational archaeology that is both visceral and mythic.
Jack Jubb is an artist living and working in London. Jubb creates ghostly airbrushed paintings deriving from a bricolage of digital images spanning e-commerce, social media, and cinema amongst other sources. Through tandem practices of painting and research, Jubb examines notions of the Poor Image situated within the DNA of culture, how resolution or fidelity of images relates to political economy, and essential questions of truth and falsehood surrounding memory; whether experienced via gauzy nostalgia, fantasy, or the haunted sites of trauma.
Jack Jubb graduated in Fine Art from Goldsmiths University in 2015. Solo exhibitions include Viscous Cycle, The Residence Gallery, London, UK (2022); Feeling Sentimental, DJ Berlin, Germany (2021). Group exhibitions include Apotrope, Cob Gallery, London, UK (2022); Salon, Guts Gallery/ The Sunday Painter, London, UK (2022); Memeplex, Seventeen Gallery, London, UK (2022); The Future isn’t what is used to be, Moarain House, London, UK (2022); Halcyon on and on, Franz Kaka, Toronto, Canada (2021); Gnosis Show, Daisy’s room, London, UK (2021); Being Here, Kupfer Project, London, UK (2021); Halcyon on and on, Franz Kaka, Toronto, Canada.
Mia Middleton uses the medium of painting to explore the concept of time whilst likening an entanglement created by the representation of fleeting phenomena via static imagery and the durational flow of painting. For Middleton, the reverberations and limitations of images feels like a fitting way to depict the philosophical and psychological considerations of being. Through painting, Middleton shares a kind of perpetual charge and alludes to many temporalities on one plane. Middleton’s works evoke layered histories through the medium of representational painting and its lineage, and also explore the patina and flux of memory and interiority through seriality and associations between subjects.
Solo exhibitions include; Through the Gate, Painters Painting Paintings, UK/Digital (2022); When the Edge of the Head was a Hole, Fires, Sydney, Australia (2019); Being There, Blindside Gallery, Melbourne, Australia (2018); Turn it into Water, Homesession, Barcelona, Spain (2018). Group exhibitions include Apotrope, Cob, London, UK (2022); What Now, PM/AM, London, UK (2022); New Landscapes Pt. 2, Lon Gallery, Melbourne, Australia (2021); Open Source Studio, Digital Exhibition, Seoul Museum of Art Residency (2020); Flogging a Dead Horse, Canteen, Sydney, Australia (2020); Futures, Hyper Contemporary, Melbourne, Australia (2019); Concept 2017, CICA Museum, Korea (2017). Residencies include Seoul Museum of Art SeMA NANJI, Seoul, Korea (2020).
Caroline Zurmely’s practice is often driven by material, texture and process above theme or subject. Recent series include nail polish enamel relief paintings and pieces made by manipulating the fibres of vintage towels. Her work with nail polish explores tabloid photography and scenes of public mourning in tight close-ups, crafting opposing senses of intimacy and remoteness between the viewer and subject. Utilizing unconventional materials and restricting the scope of her pieces, Zurmely aims to alter the viewer’s experience with respect to distance.
Caroline Zurmely lives and works in Dallas Texas. Group exhibitions include Apotrope, Cob Gallery, London, UK (2022); Young Sculptors Exhibition, National Sculpture Society, NYC, NY, US (2022); By Yourself with Everyone, Good Mother Gallery, Part 39, US (2021); Painting Senior Show, Woods Gerry Gallery, Providence, RI, US (2017).