O brave new world, that has such people in’t!
William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act 5, Scene 1
The painting practice of British artist Felix Treadwell is defined by a kind of yearning for a remembered past. Interested specifically in the impact of our digital reality on his own and on younger generations, both positive, in terms of its facilitating connectivity between disparate social and cultural groups, and negative, in terms of how it has come to dominate and control social interaction, his work is peopled by fictional characters lost in an undefined space, beyond the technological world, their attitudes, actions and attire recalling childhood memories, the fashion trends of his youth, sci-fi movies and comics.
Looking at the works made for this exhibition entitled ‘Kindred Lands’, one enters a world peopled by medieval knights of folklore, their exaggerated limbs and oversize, globe-like torsos shaped with seductively abstract brushstrokes, their forms occupying a kind of limbo, set against a plain monochromatic backdrop, outside of time and place.
The palette of warm reds, greys, browns and occasionally intense blues or yellows owes something to post-war abstraction, their cartoonish heads and limbs and startled bird-like eyes perhaps to the late work of Philip Guston. Expressionless yet vulnerable, or with their faces obscured by the heavy metal head gear of their armoury, these characters seem to be actors in a mysterious play, not of our time.
The artist has described his subjects here as being “imagined from a hypothetical future civilisation where humanity has rebuilt itself, thousands of years in the future, after a nuclear holocaust. Life has reverted to a kind of medieval structure and the world is once again feudal and fractured. The works embody the frailty of humanity, yet they present a hopeful idea of a future where we might adapt to an increasingly harsh social, economic and natural environment while also dealing with our identity status and power”.
Treadwell’s envisioning of his cast of characters cannot help but recall the dystopian nightmare of Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ (1932) and its utopian counterpart ‘Island’, Huxley’s last novel. In a foreword to a new edition of the former issued in 1946, Huxley wrote:
“If I were now to rewrite the book, I would offer the Savage a third alternative. Between the Utopian and primitive horns of his dilemma would lie the possibility of sanity… In this community …Science and technology would be used as though…they had been made for man, not (as at present and still more so in the Brave New World) as though man were to be adapted and enslaved to them.”
It is in this space where Treadwell’s lonely but hopeful cast reside.
Felix Treadwell (b. 1992, Maidstone, UK) lives and works in Taipei, Taiwan. He holds a BFA from Camberwell College of Arts and an MFA from the Royal College of Art.
Recent solo exhibitions include ‘Buff Titan’, L21 Gallery, Palma, 2021; ‘Dominion’, Dopeness Art Lab, Taipei, 2021; ‘Rupert and Friends’, Union Gallery, Bethnal Green, London,2017; ‘Community’, LTD Los Angeles, 2019.
His work has appeared in numerous group exhibitions, most recently ‘Stockholm Sessions’, Carl Kostyál Hospitalet, Stockholm, 2021; ‘Can’t Wait To Meet You’, Primary Projects, Miami, 2021;‘DONTGIVEADAMNS’, Gallerie MarianCramer, Amsterdam, 2020; ‘2x2x2’, imlabor, Tokyo, 2020; ‘ADIEU TO OLD ENGLAND, THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT’, Choi & Lager Gallery, Cologne, 2019; ‘There’s Something About Painting’, Tatjana Pieters Gallery, Gent, 2019; ‘Deeply’, Galleria Patricia Armocida, Milan, 2019.
This is Treadwell’s debut exhibition at Carl Kostyál.
Photo by Viktor Fordell. © the artist. Courtesy of Carl Kostyál, London | Stockholm