Alex Virji

Alex Virji’s paintings are palimpsests: a record of a process that values erasure as a creative act. In this sense his practice is archaeological, as different layers of canvas and paint are obscured, only to be unearthed in due course, and consequently transformed. His form too shows a concern with temporality. The tropes of the oval shape and floral patterning serve to historicise his work – evoking what he refers to as ‘the exacting and almost indexical nature of 16th century miniature painting’ – even as it breaks out into abstraction.

Much of Virji’s work forms part of what he terms an ‘inquest’ into the miniature form. The genre of painting with which Alex’s work engages was absolutely functional, a sort of ID intended to record physical appearance with precision, as well as to be indicative of status. As such these artworks would have frequently acted as surrogates for absent individuals, perhaps due to distance, or death. Virji is concerned with the subversion of this form’s exactitude, through a process of ‘distending portraiture into abstract, ephemeral spaces that, whilst providing spatial readings you could associate with landscape, confounds this impression through redaction and deletion’. He suggests that this practice creates ‘a dialogue between what is additive and what is subtractive’ within the painting.

This is the crux of Virji’s fascination with painting: ‘I see the application of paint in my work as much more deletive than the rubbing away. There are some quite positive, quite physical marks that come about with rubbing into the grain of the canvas, which reveals a kind of pixilation. This creates the impression that the image is disappearing, whilst simultaneously bringing out this pitted texture, which is something painters intend to cover up and push back’.

Simultaneity and juxtaposition are absolutely central to the experience of viewing Virji’s paintings. ‘Grey Moon’ is highly suggestive of a specifically historical femininity: the dressing room of a well-to-do lady of the house. But, as the artist suggests, ‘this frivolity is mixed with an unnerving, uncanny atmosphere’. It is this perpetual imbalance that draws you into the work: ‘I want there to be an uncomfortable feel to these paintings; a space for the viewer to enter into psychologically’.

Text by Simon Vickery

Born in 1986 in London, UK
Lives / works in London, UK

Education
2012: City and Guilds of London Art School, MA Hons Painting
2009: City and Guilds of London Art School, BA Hons Painting, 1st Class

Solo Exhibitions
2013: ‘Entropical Paradise’, Man&Eve, London, UK
2011: ‘Hinterland’, Man&Eve project space, London, UK
2010: ‘Variations on a Theme’, Gallery Primo Alonso, UK

Group Exhibitions
2013: New British 2013 curated by Patch London, The Lloyds Club, London
2012: ‘Show 1’, Block 336, London, UK — MA Show, City and Guilds of London Art School, London, UK — ‘Group Show’, China Shop Gallery at Turl Street Kitchen, Oxford, UK
2011: ‘Polemically Small’, KCCC Exhibition Hall, Klaipeda, Lithuania — ‘THE FUTURE CAN WAIT presents: Polemically Small’, Torrance Art Museum, California, USA — ‘Young London’, V22, Biscuit Factory, Bermondsey, London, UK — ‘Catlin Art Prize 2011’ (5 year anniversary exhibition), Hoxton Tramshed, London, UK — ‘New Arrivals’, Edward Cutler Gallery, Milan, Italy — ‘One Year On’, 42 Theobald’s Road, London, UK
2010: ‘The Future Can Wait’, Shoreditch Townhall, London, UK — ‘The Catlin Art Prize’, The Village Underground, London, UK — The Catlin Guide Stand, London Art Fair, London, UK
2009: ‘The Future Can Wait’, Truman Brewery, London, UK — ‘Sliding down a Radiant Abyss’, Crimestown Gallery, London, UK — City and guilds of London Art School Degree Show, City and guilds of London Art School, London, UK
2008: ‘Abigail’s Arty’, Crimestown Gallery, London, UK — ‘ICON’, Gallery Primo Alonso, London, UK

Bibliography
2013: ’100 London Artists, Volume I; 50 Painters’, Elizabeth Beecher Publishing
2010: Turps Banana, Issue 9, Review of Solo Show ‘Variations on a Theme’
Glass Magazine, ’3 Artists To Invest In Now’, Article about Catlin Guide, 2010
Retitle.com – Artist focus Painting
2011: Stet Online Journal, March 2011

Grants/Awards
GAM bursary 2011/12
Catlin Art Prize 2010 Finalist

Publications
The Catlin Guide 2010