Alex Gene Morrison: Same As It Ever Was

The woods don’t look welcoming. Straying off the path, if you can find one, would probably lead you into trouble. The trees look dead, bare branches in the brownish murk. If we went in, what might we find?

A scary monster. Sharp fangs opened wide, eyeless and glossy black. Organic traceries or force fields surround his head. He might bite your hand off unless you can get away. You can almost hear him shrieking. There’s an apelike grey skull, an unearthly green light in its eyes. Is it dead, or somehow alive? An enormous hand is outspread in extreme close up. The hand of what – a man, an alien? The fingertips are coloured, the palm emblazoned with jagged purple symbols. Is it held up in a gesture of welcome, protection, or fear?

Those jagged lines keep coming. An acid yellow-green bolt cuts through a glossy slick of black paint. A black bolt glitters crisply against a matt grey surface. A shard of bright red, edges and point knife-sharp, sears across a cascading flurry of dark brush strokes. Is it rising, or descending? So many questions present themselves in this revel of ambiguity.

There is intense colour amidst the darkness, and it is very dark here. The mood is sombre, yet the work is vivid and dynamic. There’s an energy in the flow of brush marks, with some of the paint surfaces heavily worked. But there’s also an intense precision, a care for things being exactly so. Paint here is partly enjoyed for its own sake, as a liquid held in suspension, as a texture that you want to caress. A surface that glitters, shines and flickers before the eye.

In Arise, a totemic figure crowned with a lightning bolt fills the space before a field of something molten and glowing. Radiating darkness, emerging from an array of jagged shapes, it stands before us. Are we meant to worship, to cower? In the depths of the forest, we might have stumbled across a kind of dark ritual. If we could hear it, the noise would likely be deafening.

Charlie Smith, 336 Old Street, 2nd Floor, London EC1V 9DR.