Che Lovelace Day Always Comes

Corvi-mora, London 28 April – 17 June

- Oliver Basciano

The best art is often the product of knowledge and happenstan­ce. This is the case in Che Lovelace’s exhibition of ten paintings depicting scenes from his home country of Trinidad. His subject matter recalls the same elegant bodies found in compatriot Boscoe Holder’s portraits of the island’s workers, musicians and playboys; the lush, fervid landscapes of Peter Doig’s canvases. Yet Lovelace’s style, a trippy combinatio­n of cubist angles and realism, outstrips them. In The Breath (2022) a muscular young man lies on his back in swimming trunks. It’s as if the viewer is looking at the subject with their head rested on his thighs, his groin dominating the bottom right of the frame, a nod to sexualised, colonial visions of life in the equatorial tropics (think Charles Warren Stoddard’s thirsty writing on island life or a homoerotic­ised Paul Gauguin), but with the fetishisti­c tension undercut by the sleepy psychedeli­a of a night sky. With a hand resting on his chest, the man’s dreams are constructe­d of acrylic splashes of yellow, deep blue, turquoise and a near-fluorescen­t orange that spill across the almost-metre-andhalf canvas.

All of Lovelace’s paintings are made on a grid of four compressed-paper board panels (material intended for book binding), an innovation born of necessity since canvas was expensive and tricky to obtain in Trinidad when Lovelace started painting during the mid-1990s. That the overlappin­g imagery often doesn’t join up perfectly when the panels are assembled adds to the sense of discombobu­lation: in Street Dance (2016–22) a frantic carnival scene plays out against a busy semiabstra­ct, geometric townscape. While coming together as part of the whole, each board boasts its own individual palette; something pushed even further in Moonlight Searchers (2022), in which two naked women pick through the undergrowt­h, the scale shifting across the quadrant; or The Red House (2021), in which each board could just as well be shown independen­tly (showing, clockwise from top left, a red brick house; a hilltop of colourful homes; a topless man with dreads; a young mother, her child sat on a small flight of steps nearby), but which together play out a miniature drama for the viewer (are we witness to an argument or a flirtation?). These formal ploys deconstruc­t any reductive, one-dimensiona­l view of Lovelace’s home, embodying, both in technique and subject, the many stories and textures of modern Trinidad.

 ?? Courtesy the artist ?? The Red House, 2021, acrylic and dry pigment on board panels, 152 × 127 cm.
Courtesy the artist The Red House, 2021, acrylic and dry pigment on board panels, 152 × 127 cm.

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