Rhys Coren: Shape of Story review

4 out of 5 stars
Rhys Coren: Shape of Story review
Photo by Damian Griffiths.

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

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The worst people on earth are the ones who take the tube from Covent Garden to Leicester Square. They have no idea what they’re missing. London is a walking city. These damp, polluted streets are built for trudging down; you’re meant to slap your feet on the pavement and make the city your own.

Young English artist Rhys Coren knows that. He walks to his studio every day down south London streets, under lush plane trees, through choking smog, past rushed graffiti and the hulking heft of this town’s bulky architecture.

It’s walking that ties this show together. The opening room is full of primary coloured works made from precisely cut and puzzled-together MDF. The abstract squiggles are exhaust fumes belching out of a cab, meandering coloured lines are Coren’s thoughts tumbling together as he walks. There are little hints of the shadows of trees, the alternating patterns of paving stones, the taut, straight lines of buildings.

One work is a series of curves hiding the word ‘seahorse’, the nickname for the hippocampus, the bit of the brain triggered into releasing endorphins by walking. Coren’s new work is a little mindful, and a little neurotic.

The second room is a primary colour playpen showing an animation of walking feet, the sound of the city chuntering out of nearby speakers. My only real qualm is that this room, which makes the whole show make sense, comes after you’ve already dealt with the paintings.

His aesthetic is what makes this special though. It’s a collision of Matisse, Albers and ‘Sesame Street’. Like 1990s cartoons mashed together with classic colour theory. It’s all these visual cues we’ve grown up with, condensed down and spat out. They’re these awesome little bursts of aesthetic thinking, controlled explosions of colour, shape and thought.

And you get the sense that Coren really needs these walks. He needs the time and space to think and breathe, to be alone, to be in his own space. We all do, really. It’s just that most of us aren’t good enough to turn that necessity into really good art. 


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