ORGAN: Marlene Steyn’s You-Me-Verse exhibition at Lychee One, Hackney, East London…

Marlene Steyn, You-Me-Verse at Lychee One, Hackney, East London  – Did go check out the new Marlene Steyn show at Hackney’s Lychee One the day after the show opened, never the most friendly or engaging of galleries, or that informative for that matter, but they are just over the road from us here and we do like to support those on our immediate doorstep when we can. The gallery is looking rather stylish with those freshly painted mauve walls right now, it is a rather decent space to see a show, good light, great sight lines, an excellent art space (if only they were a little more friendly and willing to engage).

“Where do you end and I begin? We are constantly seeping into one another, eternally dissolving into the world. We are entangled with our surroundings. We are filled with infinite strangeness”.

I have to be honest here, Marlene Steyn’s art isn’t really to my taste, her subject matter, her challenge isn’t really something that challenges me as a viewer or an artist, her “ambiguous twilight” and her almost hippified moons and trees and that palette and well, it just isn’t my cup of tea. And here’s the thing, do we just ignore it and move on or do you want us to inform you? Exhibitions at Lychee One do seem to mostly be well kept secrets,  they don’t really do Facebook or Twitter, they don’t really do mailing lists, Instagram or nothing seems to be where they’re at and we all know the problems with Instagram and their annoying algorithms. So do we say, not for us and quietly move on or do we say something? What is our function here? Marlene Steyn paints strangely slick psychedelic trees, slightly surreal, spiritual, I want to say hippy shit but that’s too insulting and I think this show deserves a little respect than that offers. Hey look, Marlene Steyn has a show on at Hackney’s Lychee One Gallery for a month or so, you might argue the show is a good follow up to the recent James Owens show in the same space. Marlene Steyn has a show, I went, had a look, it isn’t really my thing, if it looks like it might be yours then here it is…           

Lychee One is at Unit 1 The Gransden, 39-45 Gransden Avenue, Hackney, London, E8 3QA – London Fields would be a better address, in that gap between Mare Street and London Fields itself, just through the alley almost directly over the road from London Fields overground station,, the gallery opens onto the street as part of  one of the fancy new builds (where Play once happened before all the destruction). The Marlene Steyn show runs until October 16th, the gallery opening hours are stated as Thursday – Saturday 12 – 6pm and by appointment.

Previous Lychee One coverage on these pages

Here’s what the gallery has to say about Marlene…

Where do you end and I begin? We are constantly seeping into one another, eternally dissolving into the world. We are entangled with our surroundings. We are filled with infinite strangeness.

Marlene Steyn’s work is concerned with the relationship between painting and psychoanalysis, exploring the formation of reality and of the self. Each painting offers a deep dive into the psyche, bringing the viewer face to face with the other within. Steyn’s work encourages us to find the unfamiliar within ourselves and to challenge the boundaries of our bodies and identities.

Throughout You-Me-Verse, female figures are interwoven with their environments, becoming part of the landscapes. Faces appear and reappear as iteratively repeated motifs. The repetition is not mechanical or precise; features and expressions change slightly from face to face, suggesting the phases and multiplicities of identity that can be found even within a single individual.

A number of the works in the exhibition examine the blurred boundaries of the self experienced during pregnancy and motherhood. Steyn draws visual parallels between trees and the placenta, as well as using wordplay to suggest a mysteriously potent analogy between moon and womb. You-Me-Verse confuses the dimensions of time and space, mingling bodily scale with the level of the landscape or even the planetary or universal.

The notion of the oasis emerges throughout the show, suggesting an essential process of creating sanctuary and finding calm, in spite of the visual complexity of the images. Bodies of water further evoke the womb, while water is also figured as a space of the imagination and the unconscious. These dreamscapes, determined by emotions and hormones, are part of Steyn’s attempt to create inclusive, soft, feminine spaces, ruled by the poetical rather than the logical.

Many of the paintings are set around an ambiguous twilight hour, with the sun low on the horizon or the moon just rising. These are times of metamorphosis, when the light tricks the eye and objects and places seem to morph, taking on magical identities. This concern with change is rooted in Steyn’s interest in mythologies and the fluidity of interpretation surrounding folklore and legends. For example, within the many compelling narratives of people turning into plants, animals, and geographical features, does metamorphosis offer an active escape or a passive sense of release? Or is transformation sometimes a punishment, dooming a character to an eternity of remembered trauma or grief?

Steyn’s paintings are themselves transformational; never static, they induce a sense of restless vertigo through apparently infinitely repeating openings into the new. The complex layering of ideas and images offers various points of entry into each work, allowing openness to interpretation and pointing to a multifaceted subjectivity across shifting emotional registers.

Text by Anna Souter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s