Art & Design

Hard-Boiled Wonderland

23 August - 17 September 2016, London

A group exhibition exploring three painters' dystopian visions, featuring work by Marcelle Hanselaar, Rui Matsunaga and Nahem Shoa.

Overpopulation. Climate change. Terrorism. War. There is no doubt that we live in troubled times. Scratch the shiny surface and you find anger, intolerance, exploitation and deprivation. For most of us, a combination of wilful blindness and determined ignorance allows us to continue business-as-usual, but for the three artists in this exhibition the only way to deal with hard-core reality is to paint.

Although stylistically and temperamentally varied, each artist draws heavily from the Surrealist canon. They paint emotionally not logically. Like the great literary and filmic works that inspire them, they create parallel universes inhabited by peculiar characters, staple props and recurring motifs. This is dystopia, a warped reflection or surreal parody of our world; a place of extremes; not sanitised but dirty, depraved and sinister. Porn fairy tales or slash cartoons. The artists’ frankness in depicting the base and primitive lends the work an initially comic air but the gallows humour belies a more serious intent; to show the complexities of our physical and spiritual existence. It is often in contemplating fictions that we learn to understand truths.

Growing up in a formal Protestant household in post-war Rotterdam proved a profound source of inspiration for Hanselaar, whose recurring subject matter is the often troubled cohabitation of our raw desires, secret fantasies and uncultivated instincts with our functioning in a civil society. As an artist, Hanselaar looks for ways to express those illusive questions of who and what we are when the mask is off, and how we appear when the mask is on. Hanselaar’s work is held in many prestigious public and private collections, including the V&A, the British Museum and the Ashmolean.

Rui Matsunaga’s work arises from Asian folklore and story-telling yet is fused with references from contemporary popular culture, Japanese anime and sci-fi comics. Her paintings - windows into a fantastical realm inhabited by frenzied and grotesque characters - reflect on our relationship with nature, the spiritual and the magical. Born in Japan, Matsunaga studied at the Royal Academy Schools and Central Saint Martins College of Art. She has exhibited widely and been shortlisted for the John Moore’s and Celeste art prizes.


Nahem Shoa, a London born-and-based artist with Scottish, Russian, Yemeni and Ethiopian roots, has over decades of painting sought to represent the ever-changing ethnical and sexual diversity of contemporary society. Often working live from the model, his politically aware work reflects on the state of the world through art history and the complex and visionary language of his subconscious imagination. Shoa has exhibited in London's National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Academy and has work in a number of public collections including the Victoria & Albert, Southampton, Plymouth and Manchester City Art Galleries, and Exeter’s Royal Memorial Museum.


Admission: Free

23 August - 17 September 2016

Jessica Carlisle Gallery, 4 Mandeville Place, W1U 2BF


Tel: 07446 482 169

Jessica Carlisle Gallery