Keith Coventry creates paintings and sculptures which manipulate legacies of Modernism to address conditions of contemporary urban life. His idiosyncratic and personal project to create a form of contemporary history painting encompasses an immense range of reference. These paintings and sculptures pit art history – Malevich, Mondrian and Warhol – International Modernism, Minimalism and Pop Art – against images of heroism and idealism, dissolute decadence and aberrant behaviour.
Coventry has an enduring interest in the dark flipside of idealism: urban decay, social failure, drug abuse, and alienation. Many of the art historical references that he deploys are defined by the Utopian ideals of Modernism, the aim of which was to refashion the world. Coventry plays with these beliefs and shows them to be misplaced, even misconceived, the gulf between belief and reality stimulating a series of troubling undercurrents in his work.
Born in 1982 Samuel Bassett comes from Cornwall, more specifically the town of St Ives steeped in fishing and artistic heritage. His family have been there as fishermen since 1695 and until recently he occupied a studio above his grandfathers former net loft a few minutes walk from the Tate Gallery within the hustle and bustle.
Contemporary stories from his own experience and family lore and snippets or news from the ups and downs of his everyday social life combine with nuanced vulnerability and an expressive and experimental hand to create psychologically layered paintings about the human condition and his/our place within the madness of contemporary life. His sensitive and questioning introspection and emotional flip-flopping mean nothing is too obvious or too pretty in his paintings. Self-portraits merge with real and imagined characters adapted to the story and how he is feeling at the time. The paintings often feel like they are questioning themselves and himself and this questioning and blurring of recollection combined with the artist’s joy of exploring painting for painting’s sake make for images that have longevity and a strongly recognisable yet ever transient voice. A gregarious and engaging character his mind nevertheless seems to be questioning the bigger harder issues and to flit excitedly between concern and celebration.