Jose Carlos Naranjo at SCAN Project Room
The SCAN Project Room is a fairly tiny space in the East London pocket of Bethnal Green; as someone who loves independent art spaces, I feel that a physically small one can transform the art viewing experience in a really gratifying way. SCAN represents the Spanish Contemporary Art Network, and again it is highly encouraging to see a specialised organisation dedicated to a particular culture and their practices. Jose Carlos Naranjo has exhibited in Spain and London over the past few years and in this solo show small and large paintings are curated together to present a bizarrely quiet and sinister collection.
Jose Carlos Naranjo, Untitled, 2018. Oil on canvas, 30cm x 25cm. SCAN Projects Room, London.
With a title like 'Everything I See Will Outlive Me', perhaps it should be expected that the show will be rather morose, but it is sombre in a different way to that which is anticipated. For one, all the works are 'Untitled', and although the space is small, there is plenty of opportunity to contemplate on the artist's practice and process. The relationship between surface and layers in the exhibition through paint is prevalent, especially with the larger dark green work and the piece pictured above. Altered and 'defaced' faces in contemporary portraiture are a consistent trope of intrigue for me and here, where it appears to be a snapshot from a larger painting, the feature-less face is quietly terrifying.
'Everything I See Will Outlive Me' is a translated line from Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, and it is clear that Naranjo has taken inspiration from many high culture references. Despite the fact that only four pieces are on display at SCAN Project Room, they are bold, sophisticated and intricate in their desire to abstract and obstruct the wider truth in Naranjo's landscapes and surroundings using paint. The artist works from found images and snapshots, as evident in the portrait painting, and while this isn't exactly groundbreaking as source material, it evokes ideas of loss, fleeting moments and the pain of living in a moment that is constantly moving (or scrolling). Excitingly, the gallery space accentuates this with its almost claustrophobic form with a white and grey interior palette; the contrast of Naranjo's dark and ambiguous scenes against the white cube space is striking, almost to the point of being dramatic. The exhibition is a fine example of capitalising on minimal real estate with maximum artistic integrity.
Installation view: Jose Carlos Naranjo, Everything I See Will Outlive Me, 2018. SCAN Projects Room, London.
Image courtesy of the artist.