05 - 29 October 2016
Throughout this collection of new works by Adrian Sykes, recurrent themes and motifs are seen. Almost all include a house of some sort, whether perched on top of a cliff, or anchored far out at sea. In other works a towering castle sits majestically by a lake and a lonely igloo lies amongst the trees in a snowy landscape.
Each of these dwellings are representative of a home, a place of connection to someone. Set in surreal or fantasy worlds, that at once feel both unknown and yet also familiar as if reminiscent of a childhood story, Sykes’ paintings have a strong sense of narrative surrounding them. His imagery evokes an idea of a journey being made to or from these places, by the presence of a boat nearby, a figure approaching, or by a ladder or flight of steps waiting to be climbed.
With most of the works comes a feeling of joy and happiness. Sykes’ incorporation of humour and quirkiness, along with bright colours gives the work a lightness and optimism. Sykes describes how he aims to capture a “sense of hopefulness and peace” in his paintings, and yet there is also an unnerving presence of a darker element within the work. Whilst a house alone on top of a cliff might be someone’s dream home or sanctuary, its setting is one of isolation, and inconceivable impracticality or extreme effort to reach, or to escape from. In ‘Cliffhouses’, a treacherously long ladder must be climbed to pick the fruit at the top of a tree. The residents in ‘Island’ need to cross a terrifyingly high bridge to get to the other side of a bleak stone walled dwelling. Sykes’ use of scale creates these perils with high walls, tiny windows, elongated ladders, towering cliffs, tall trees, and long winding paths.
These elements combined are equally as happy and playful as they are laced with uncertainty, arduous travelling, restriction and possibly also loneliness. Some may be a more likely setting for a dark fairy-tale than one that ends happily ever after, but it is this openness to interpretation of his work which makes this such a powerful and enjoyable collection of paintings.