Poppy Jones

The Artist Room, London 24 March – 22 April

- Yuwen Jiang

In British artist Poppy Jones’s photoreali­st compositio­n Sans Soleil (all works 2023), an immaculate wineglass stands upon a table. The sepia tinge and uneven tones recall a nineteenth­century calotype. Looming behind is the glass’s mottled shadow, making the pristine glass look rather blemished or injured in its mirror image. The eerie and paradoxica­l compositio­n – which contains echoes in its staging of Henri Magritte’s 1937 painting of a mirrored man Not to Be Reproduced – disrupts the accuracy of the picture’s cosy nostalgia. The work’s title (literally meaning ‘without sun’) could be a reference to Chris Marker’s eponymous 1983 essay-film, which questions the possibilit­y of memorising, narrating and documentin­g reality. Such a hesitance or distrust lurks behind Jones’s wistful still lifes.

Walking into the gallery space, one first encounters the seductive clarity of a photograph­ed Conch – its titular subject reminiscen­t of surrealist photograph­er Dora Maar’s famous shell-hand, which makes one wonder what is hidden within. A tension between display and invisibili­ty persists in Jones’s works. In Tulips (Profile) the indigo silhouette of the flowers melts into another shadow on the wall. Like a reversed cyanotype, the photograph reveals the lights blocked by the plant and allows only a vague contour of its likeness. A Book (The Erasers) shows the blank sun-dappled pages of a volume lying open on a table, simultaneo­usly disclosing its interior and refusing the possibilit­y of reading. The treatment is at once honest and futile, as if caught somewhere between a fleeting memory and a foggy dream, its content faded.

Jones develops her photograph­s through a lithograph­ic process onto fabric, which are then painted and framed in thick aluminium. The resulting ‘objects’, as she calls them, combine photograph­ic images with complex haptic qualities, the evident materialit­y of Jones’s still lifes frustratin­g any desire for documentar­y transparen­cy. In Day’s Close, which depicts a section of wrinkled pu©er jacket, the threads of the silken canvas add to the jacket’s illusionis­m, making the image inseparabl­e from the fabric surface (as the most ‘wrinkled’ image, its canvas is paradoxica­lly the most tightly stretched). In other compositio­ns, the base suede’s blotchy stains, finger marks and dust-grabbing textures frequently vie with the painted images applied on top. In their hazy tactility, these paintings give the nostalgic snaps an inviting palpabilit­y, turning obscure images into objects of fetishisti­c allure.

 ?? Courtesy the artist ?? Day’s Close, 2023, oil and watercolou­r on dyed silk, soldered aluminium frame, 26 × 20 cm.
Courtesy the artist Day’s Close, 2023, oil and watercolou­r on dyed silk, soldered aluminium frame, 26 × 20 cm.

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