J Louis: Anthology

4 - 30 March 2021




New York-based artist J Louis paints figures in moments of contemplation and repose, framed by sumptuous colour fields. Face and body are carefully rendered, in contrast to the looser handling of the clothing and backgrounds, where the medium is smeared and scumbled across the surface. These delicately arranged scenes impart a sense of communication and connection between the subject and the viewer.


The exciting immediacy and pace of his handling is complemented by careful composition. He takes great pains to arrange his subjects for theatrical effect. Character and personality are the essential focus for this artist. Consequently, heads are the centre of attention and the fulcrum around which the painting pivots. He makes dynamic and harmonious arrangements of forms and limbs, which are especially evident in the studies of paired figures. His viewpoint is often from above; an aerial perspective which evinces a hovering, forensic inspection of his subject. Despite their ostensibly vulnerable position relative to the painter, they exert power. His engaged fascination shows through.


Louis demonstrates accomplished technique. Fluent brushwork describes contour with graphic accuracy and a sophisticated colour palette seduces the eye with its rich blacks, astringent yellows and fiery russets. The paint is variously thin and thick, translucent and congealed, chalky and slick. It makes a texture of sensory contrasts. In places, the raw canvas shows through, allowing us to see the underlying structure of the painting. The artist communicates a palpable sense of excitement with the painting process.


Such oblique and cropped compositions owe a debt to Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec, as do the vibrant colours. In pursuit of beauty, isolating it and pinning it down for our regard, J Louis's pictures are compressed and eschew context. We see a distillation of what he considers essential, elegantly articulated in a sea of skilfully-applied oil paint.