Samuel Bassett: The Village: Vigo Gallery, London

28 April - 26 May 2023

Vigo Gallery is delighted to present The Village: a solo exhibition of new paintings by Samuel Bassett (b. 1982, St Ives). 


Living in a small, rural community in Penwith, near Penzance in Cornwall, Bassett’s work is intensely personal. The paintings reflect and document his multi-layered, psychological, and physical experiences within his community, and his journeys both physical and mental over the last the last few years. 


His move from St Ives has offered a slower, more contemplative existence and the subsequent narratives take in the vagaries of general village life. Time stretches, with figures observed across weeks; people praying, walking, swimming, urinating in fields, picking crops, and clearing land. Yet all the time snippets of past memories come back to infiltrate this calm. Each painting seems to include many chapters of a story, mixed with quotes from the past and present. 


These paintings have developed from initial drawings created during lockdown, a cathartic ritual that helped him towards looser, more transcendent imagery. Dreamlike figures overlap within time-fluid landscapes. There are layered bodies: heads within heads, and people within people. This longer process has allowed him to absorb and take in experience on a more micro level, such as the inner peace found gazing at the moon at night. Within these paintings there is fear, worry, exploration, adventure and a learned knowledge of being, of the idea that we are made from the land and will break down into it once more.


Life as ritual recurs across the works, with prayer alluding not to organised religion, but to the need for affirmation, pattern, belief, and reflection. Art historical references are littered across the paintings, from Francis Bacon, Vincent Van Gogh, Peter Lanyon, Christopher Wood, Barbara Hepworth, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, and Karl Weschke, who had a diving accident after moving to Penwith, about which he then painted. Many of these figures have gone before Bassett in exploring landscapes such as these and become intertwined in his reflections on them. Fisherman’s Farewell (2022), for example, is taken from a Wood painting that is one of the artist’s favourites. In the work, one figure strangling another replaces the fisherman embracing his family before heading out to sea in the original, relating, perhaps, to the dwindling, struggling traditions of local community, or even the stifling of an old mindset.


The forms in Bassett’s paintings bend and stretch within the landscapes that hold them, reaching into their lines and layers and contorting into a whole. His practice has been described as “psychological cubism,” adhering to its methods of breaking down figure and form, but also approaching a distortion of thoughts and ideas within the mind and the self, and the conversation between the two.


Samuel Bassett is a British artist living and working in Cornwall, where his family line has long existed as part of the fishing and mining communities. He is represented by Vigo Gallery. 


Recent solo exhibitions include Oi Oi, Bridge Point Art Centre, Rye, East Sussex, UK (2021); Oi Oi, Vigo Gallery Virtual Reality (2021); Fish Men, Mackerel Skies, Vigo Gallery, Vortic Virtual Reality, online (2019); Hourglass, Anima Mundi Gallery, St Ives, UK (2018); From Wood and Leather Boots, Galerie Kornfeld, Berlin, Germany (2018). 


Recent group exhibitions include Untitled Virtual Reality, Vigo Gallery, London (2019); One of One, After Projects, London (2018), Untitled Miami, Galerie Kornfeld, Miami (2018); Paper Cuts, curated by Kris Day, Saatchi Gallery, London (2018); and Berlin Calling, curated by Phillip Groezinger, Galerie Kornfeld, Berlin (2017).