I wasn’t surprised to learn that painter Phil Hale used to illustrate books for Stephen King, because his paintings delicately embrace the dreamlike, foreboding essence of a horror novel. Simultaneously compelling and repellent, Hale creates imagined visual tableaus “derived from images appropriated from the internet and analogue archives.” The exhibit’s accompanying press release reveals that “this new series of paintings and drawings are an artifact of the instability and uncertainty that characterizes our era.” Amen to that.
The paintings that make up Life Wants to Live — each eponymously titled with an added number — are creepy, frightening and also very beautiful, and you can see that Hale has great talent as a realist painter who knows how to put a twist on the familiar without treading into the realm of the surreal.
Using both form and abstraction, the works convey the struggle to process, reconcile and structure an overwhelming flood of imagery and data. His realignments and mash-ups of the human form are truncated, extruded and redirected, suggesting not only the impossibility of constructing a meaningful whole from available fragments but also the unreliability of any interpretation at all.
Hale’s work also reminds of of painter Brett Amory, another artist represented by the Levine gallery. Phil Hale is an American living and working in London. I am glad to have discovered his work through the LeVine Gallery.
Phil Hale’s Life Wants to Live will be on Exhibit Through March 21st, 2015 at Jonathan LeVine Gallery, Located at 529 West 20th Street, 9th Floor, in the Chelsea Gallery District.
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