Kevin Sinnott – Liebestod at Flowers Gallery, East London – Wow! – Wow really is the only reaction once you walk in to that main room, wow! Wasn’t expecting that, look at the size of the painting on the back wall, I’d seen it on line, we used it here at Organ as part of a preview, but nothing really prepares you for the powerful scale of it. You really do get a rush when you first see it there on the back wall and then from the sides, the rest of it hits you, wow! We wondered how the gallery was going to follow up the excellent Dump Circus show from Nicola Hicks at the end of last year.
Flowers Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new and recent paintings by renowned Welsh artist Kevin Sinnott. The title of the exhibition, Liebestod (which translates from the German as ‘love’ and ‘death’) is also the title of a central monumental painting, Sinnott’s largest and most ambitious work to date.
Sinnott describes the scale and theme of Liebestod as “operatic” in its exploration of the tragedy of human love, fusing a personal iconography with references to the legendary doomed lovers Tristan and Isolde. Several paintings in the exhibition feature a supine male figure held in the arms of a woman, recalling the art historical subject of the Pietà. This recurring theme can be seen in Strong Woman, and Fallen Man, and is inverted in Goddess of the Dawn, where an upturned figure is held by his boots, the rest of his body appearing nebulous in a flurry of gestural brushwork.
That gigantic painting taking up the entire wall does grab you first, impossible for it not to, but once you are in the room, it doesn’t dominate as much as the energy of the paint and the gorgeous use of colour in the relatively small paintings does. This is a really exciting show, it really is a buzz to stand in the middle of the rime and bask in in all before you zoom in on one and then another of the gorgeous paintings that surround you.
During 2020, Sinnott returned to sketchbooks kept across the past 30 years, to “quarry,” as he states, “themes invented or discovered throughout my professional life.” The paintings that Sinnott made in response to the sketchbooks contain familiar symbols, such as the mathematical equation within Geometry Lesson (with reference to Cezanne), and the mines and valleys of the Welsh countryside (for example, in Collier’s Boy), often recalling and reimagining stories of local people.
Kevin Sinnott’s paintings are about movement, the movement of paint, the movement of the subjects, the people (the movement of the viewer, you do need to move around these pieces), the movement of the bodies and their relationships – there is a lyrical style, a flow, a dance, the paint is glorious, joyous, dynamic, it really really is a thrill to be in here with all these paintings (with the room to myself). Gloriously gestural, exciting paintwork, the paintings are beautiful complex yet wonderfully simple, free, easy, they feel very natural, free, easy to look at, to climb into, they hold your eye, they demand you come back – these painting are so alive, a sense of them being about community, about his Welsh community, about life – there’s a warmth here, a passion (a Welsh passion?), this big room full of big paintings is just really really exciting to see, it eels so good to be in here (and I’ve never seen a decent photograph of a Kevin Sinnott painting), this is a proper painting exhibition, one of the finest in quite some time, highly recommended. (sw)
Do click on an image to enlarge or to run the slide sohw.