Wolves on the Road

Curated by Kate Mothes

Assembly House, Leeds

16th May – 5th June  

Ominous, brooding and lurking with intent, ‘Wolves on the Road’, the latest incarnation of Assembly House’s painting programme opened on 16th May. It features works by Emma Fineman, Yulia Losilzon, Aly Helyer, Francisco Rodriguez and Anna Jung Seo. Each artist concerns themselves in figurative painting and each wrestles with broad individualised concerns within their work.

For viewers in need of a visual anchoring in motif and genealogies, the works can be traced to the likes of Jean Dubuffet, Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Toulouse Lautrec, Sanyu. These links are largely visual with each artist being in command of their own distinct agency, paramount to which are the psychological and cultural underpinnings of each work.

Fineman’s loosely drafted scenes offer a semblance of familiarity, with an economy of line and shape, commonplace locations of the everyday (a school yard? a bedroom?) are made into something approaching relatable. The omission of detail in Fineman’s rendering gives her work real power, it is this lack of specificity in her scenes that makes demands of the viewer; one is implored to project their own recollections of experience into the scenes, flooding the work with sense-memories and personal associations.

Echoing classical Romanesque statues in visage and laden with saccharine colours, Aly Helyer’s lithe and indolent forms conceal something intangibly unsettling. There is a sense of immediacy and directness in her use of closely cropped compositions but the effects of her works linger as the awkward, flat, skewed and just-not-quite-right sensations of it all nags away, leaving the mind rolling endlessly in search for the right questions.

‘Wolve’s’ sinister tone lightens with the inclusion of Yulia Iosilzon’s energizing compositions, whose brush strokes play fast and loose with gesture, resulting in a cartoonish melee evocative of performance and life’s chaotic theatre. Losilzon’s work is light and dreamy, adding tonal variety to the whole proceedings.

Francisco Rodriguez paintings owe a debt to comic book art, his paintings recall story board panels that depict the moments before acts of bloody violence. Each of his paintings are poised on the cusp of something unspeakable, like stills from scenes in horror films that build to something only viewable through the cracks of your fingers. Ominous, threatening and promising on delivery Rodriguez infects the show with an undercurrent of dread.  

Anna Jung Seo’s paints gooey figurations which populate cities, they candidly go about bustling city lives in gooey abandon, at times interacting with one another to reveal truths about their unconscious (gooey) selves. Seo manifests a place curdled in a state of instability, it’s people appear distant, like softly knotted apparitions cast beyond reach, whose identities and actions slip in and out of recognition.

It’s exciting to see a show committed in summoning such overt psychological depth, its penetrating effects make it an experience with longevity. The show endures long after viewing, as the vague images, sensations and figures creep their way back into mind, like a visual residue difficult to shake. Each painting and each artist has their own preoccupations but together they form a collective experience of reverie. ‘Wolves on the Road’ is that place of lucidity where the dissociative coalesce in a painterly fever dream.

Author: Afterview

Photographs By: Afterview