COUNTRY Paintings by Gerry Judah

Works by Gerry Judah, one of the leading installation and sculpture artists in the UK, exhibited at the Wolverhampton Art Gallery

life can be this "black and white"

A delightful exhibition called COUNTRY by the Indian-born, London-based installation artist and sculptor Gerry Judah comes to the Wolverhampton Art Gallery.

Judah challenges us to explore our understanding of war, conflict, peace, natural disasters and devastation through his intensely intricate, symbolic, desolate and bleak monochromatic sculptural canvases. His work is a direct response to landscapes of destruction whether it is from the result of war or climate change. Inspired by conflict, particularly in the Middle East, Judah articulates global concerns for the environment and the decimation that follows natural disasters such as the flooding of New Orleans in 2005, the attacks in India in 2008 and the more recent Australian bushfires.

Concerned with the rupture of place, lives and architecture by violence, he recreates scenes of ruinous settlements that we witness daily as reported by the media and aerial photography. Urban landscapes, constructed from model buildings, complete with their internal structures, communication wires and water towers are fixed onto canvas, and then systematically destroyed. The ensuing rubble and debris are fused onto a background of empty white or static black canvas with layers of acrylic gesso to create the sculptural paintings.

When entering the gallery space, you are immediately struck by the severe silence, a silence which triggers you to visualise the distressing soundtracks and dialogues normally accompanying these scenes of unwelcome reality. The sheer size and scale of the works make you question their display as if they were an optical illusion where the epic landscapes have an unearthly quality, with dove-grey shadows and segments of light created by the relief work are played out across the canvas as if it were a lunar landscape.

Click on the thumbnails for larger views of the photos.

COUNTRY - Install ViewCOUNTRY - Detail ViewCOUNTRY - Exhibition View

Judah evokes a clear presence of absence reminding us of our own vulnerability, the power and impact of instant destruction and, in a literal sense, that life can be this “black and white.”

In a recent interview, Judah stated,

“I was very taken by a lot of media footage of destruction caused by war, particularly contemporary conflict in the Middle East and in Eastern Europe. What impressed me most of all was not just the fact that these buildings and settlements were destroyed, but the texture that they left behind and the dust that settled over them. It looked like abstract painting to me.”

Wolverhampton Art Gallery is renowned in the UK art gallery and museum domain for addressing issues of global conflict and international politics within its displays and exhibitions, primarily seen within their permanent Northern Ireland Collection. This display along with the touring exhibition The Last Things by photographer David Moore, which shows us a hidden glimpse into a previously unseen Ministry of Defense facility, and COUNTRY by Gerry Judah all highlight the pressures of conflict past, present and future as more than just something we see and hear about on the news. It is actually part of us here and now.

A free booklet including a critical textual response to the exhibition by Michael Glover is available at the gallery. COUNTRY by Gerry Judah will be on display at Wolverhampton Art Gallery until Saturday 27 June 2009. The Gallery is open Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm and entry is free. See for further details.

Rachel Marsden is an artist, freelance curator, arts journalist and writer with a specialist interest in contemporary Asian art specifically from India and China. She also writes for a-n Magazine and What's On UK. She lives and works in the West Midlands.

Photo Credits:
COUNTRY (detail) by Gerry Judah, 2009, Acrylic, gesso and mixed media on canvas © the artist.
Photograph © Paul Ward - COUNTRY (exhibition view) by Gerry Judah, 2009, Acrylic, gesso and mixed media on canvas. Artwork © the artist.
Photograph © Wolverhampton Art Gallery - COUNTRY (installation view) by Gerry Judah, 2009, Acrylic, gesso and mixed media on canvas. Artwork © the artist.
Top image (not in exhibition) - Land Rover Central Display by Gerry Judah, Goodwood Festival of Speed 2008, © the artist.