‘Panta Rhei’ is ancient Greek for ‘everything flows’ – the idea that everything constantly changes, that everything’s somehow connected; that we exist within a kind of elemental flux. For all its hippyish connotations, it’s a venerable concept, dating back to the philosopher Heraclitus – no wonder Turner Prize-winning Keith Tyson, with his interest in networks and connectedness, has adopted the idea for his latest paintings.
His main process consists of overpainting an existing image by scraping colour patchily across its surface, then using this colour as the background for a new image. In the best works, the result is two distinct, yet ragged and fragmented, images – seemingly vying with each other to occupy the same canvas, like static interference patterns on a TV screen. An antiquated sailboat scene is overlaid with snippets of a modern marina in one piece, while another shows the despondent mixture of a Greco-Roman interior with a charred and blackened forest.
Elsewhere, though, and far less successfully, the paintings become much larger and more grandiose, and the jumbled imagery more brightly patterned and decorative. They’re more densely layered, too, with the overall sense of a swirling, if rather overworked and bombastic, montage. The problem, essentially, is that they come off as mere illustrations of the core concept, and feature clichéd imagery to boot: looping, fecund, tendrilly shapes; mathematical net patterns and branching, rhizomatic structures. All of which are redolent of ideas to do with connectivity and continuity, certainly, but only in a way that ultimately feels, for all the energy of the paintings, simply too obvious and generic. Gabriel Coxhead.