CHARLIE SMITH LONDON is pleased to present Peter Ashton Jones’ first solo exhibition at the gallery, curated by Jemima Rose.
The exhibition title refers to the traditional parlour game that has been played throughout generations, and is associated most notably with the Victorian era. Latterly known as Blind Man’s Bluff, Ashton Jones introduces ideas around wordplay, linguistic evolution, and slippages between fact and fiction from the outset. Buff is an old English word meaning tag or touch, and Ashton Jones uses his interpretation of the game and its semantic implications to create a framework that informs his reasoning and decision making when creating this series. He simultaneously refers to the relationship between artist and audience.
In broad terms, Ashton Jones begins with the traditional notion of landscape painting being a window on to the world. His landscapes refer to real places in West Sussex where he grew up, but are not specifically topographical accounts of that landscape. Rather, they are places in which painting is explored through light, rendering, layering and dynamics of line, form and colour; and operate, therefore, in a space between reality and imagination.
As well as being partially observational, Ashton Jones’ paintings might also recall his experience when in or passing through the landscape. The large painting ‘The Roll Up’ began with witnessing a grave digger from a train window that came to inspire a poem that he wrote called ‘An Exploration of a Railway Tunnel’, which was published in the poetry magazine ‘Navis’ in 1996 – ‘I saw a gravedigger, filling in with only the idea of being left with the means of getting out.’
Another theme relates to the myth of Theseus’ red ball of twine, which was given to him by Ariadne before entering the labyrinth to slay the Minotaur, in order to enable him to find his way back out.
Given the plastic artificial nature of painting, what ultimately binds together the above themes, and the diversity of imagery and language, is a questioning of what is real and what is fictional in a painting? What is believable? This question is posed directly in the large painting ‘Blind Man’s Buff’, which depicts the artist’s left hand with index finger pointing, which might be judgemental, or directing, or simply pointing towards something. It also refers to the biblical account of Doubting Thomas, who had to touch Christ in order to know whether he really had resurrected from death. Ashton Jones then, embeds narratives deriving from the personal to historical to mythological, in order to disperse clues that guide towards or away from a definitive destination.