Vigo Gallery is delighted to present The Village, a solo exhibition of new paintings by Samuel Bassett (b. 1982, St. Ives), exploring the meaning of village. Still living in Penwith, Cornwall, but in a smaller rural community, Bassett observes the gradually recognisable faces, habitual processes, and journeys, learning anew from traditional ways, gratifications of slower strides and simpler comforts. The works emerge from walks around the reservoir near the artist’s studio, trips made down to the coast, and generally life in the village. Time stretches, with figures observed across weeks; people praying, swimming, urinating in fields, picking crops, and clearing land.
The works have been made over the last two years from initial drawings created during lockdown, a cathartic habit that became somewhat of a ritual during this time. This exercise marks a progression in Bassett’s painting practice, translating into looser, transcendent forms. Dreamlike figures populate, exist, and overlap within these time-fluid landscapes. They are layered bodies: heads within heads, and people within people. The longer process has allowed them to absorb the experiences undergone by the artist in recent years, from the peace found in the moon at night, to the creeping unease of agoraphobia and internal anxieties.
There is a learned knowledge of being, of the idea that we are made from the land and will break down into it once more. There are also glimpses of expressions: fear, worry, exploration, and adventure. The forms bend and stretch within the landscapes that hold them, reaching into their lines and layers and contorting into a whole. Bassett’s work 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.
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 Art historical references are littered across the paintings, from Bacon, Van Gogh, Peter Lanyon, Christopher Wood, Hepworth, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham and Karl Weschke, who had a diving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. The Pissing Painter on the Road (2022) melds historical references to Van Gogh’s paintings of people working in the fields, passed through Bacon’s studies of these, while Fisherman’s Farewell (2022) is taken from a Christopher Wood painting that is one of the artist’s favourites. In the latter, 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. In the artist’s night-time paintings, the references lean towards wider archetypes of faith and death. In Fledgling with St Christopher (2022), a fledgling bird is held by a figure likened to St Christopher, who has long interested the artist, as he wades across the blue-black landscape.
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.
Recent solo exhibitions include Oi Oi, Vigo Gallery, Bridge Point Art Centre, Rye, East Sussex, UK (2021); Fish Men, Mackerel Skies, Vortic Virtual Reality, Vigo Gallery (2019); Hourglass, Anima Mundi Gallery, St Ives, UK (2018); From Wood and Leather Boots, Galerie Kornfeld, Berlin, Germany (2018). Recent group exhibitions include 10, PM/AM Gallery, London (2021), 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).