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Fox’s new paintings at the Royal Academy Schools Gallery, Hornsey and installation at Museum of Contemporary Art London marked the start of a new curatorial program that couples younger artists with historical artists or those who have already established an international reputation. It is our intention to place their work in context with other artists whose concerns are similar, even if their treatments are markedly different, contrasting their work, as well as highlighting links between.
Nick Fox’s work looks at the Arcadian idyll through contemporary eyes and his work, like Picabia’s erotic output is at once familiar and disturbing. Seeing his work Bloom paired with Femme aux perles by Francis Picabia allows the links (visual, painterly, and in terms of content) to emerge. While Picabia’s work is centred on the heterosexual, and Fox’s on the homoerotic, by placing the works together viewers can see the universality of the erotic impulse.
Fox’s work stems from what would appear to be a decorative painterly tradition. On closer inspection, many of Fox’s images, which at first seem floral, prove to be highly erotic, as in Picabia’s Saint Sébastien (1929) or Salomé (1930) where dense layers of drawing compete for the viewer’s gaze. Fox uses the decorative structure of repeated pattern as a device both to camouflage the suggested narrative as well as acting as subtle metaphors of desire. Closer examination of the seductive surface unveils the concealed narrative. Nude figures emerge from thickets of trees or flowers, in patterns that swirl throughout the painterly surface suggesting unfolding narratives of fantasy. Fox’s Embrace also evokes the overtly erotic Picabia’s of the early 1940’s including Femmes au bull-dog (1941-42) or La blonde au coquelicot (1942).
To make his works Fox builds up layers of paint by applying acrylic directly to glass, and then transferring the final image to board (Orbit) or in his three dimensional works to tables allowing the painting to first appear like table cloths (Drawing Room, Music Box) or as installations like Tableaux, a 15 foot painting made directly for the MOCA space. Fox’s work couples desire with failed expectation, eros with the natural world, and beauty with intelligence.
A publication documenting Fox’s installation at MOCA and his new paintings at the Royal Academy Schools Gallery is available.