Thomas Lisle at Koukan

Helton Levy

[Originally published in 2013]

Thomas Lisle - Blue Eyed Head
Thomas Lisle – Blue Eyed Head

Contemporary artists have chosen increasingly unconventional ways to represent modernity. The modern appears in objects, or apprehended in new kinds of aesthetics. The fact is that, even in art, depicting the modern has been much associated with seeing life submerging in technology. Painting modern humans without making them look like second-best things remains a challenge. That dilemma has become an issue for artist Thomas Lisle in his last exhibition at Koukan Gallery, in London.

His individuals are humans in shape, but after looking well, we can see creatures constructed with colorful and tri-dimensional pixels. His characters exist as digital archetypes carefully placed on canvas. In “From the ethereal to the material”, this attempt of “dematerialization” of the image begins intrinsically part of that discussion on modernity, but for the artist, this develops in other goals and targets (see “Inner Light”, for instance). These pieces have generally assumed that they are importing a new perception from the world, but this process ends up in something unnatural, but not completely artificial. The connection with the real world receives the bless of a software, making his portraits look in the end as if the subjects were in a slow movement, as the canvas appear transformed into some kind of screen.

Contemplation, Thomas Lisle
Contemplation, Thomas Lisle

The interesting part of Lisle composure lies in the metaphysical, or the “ethereal” condition, as he names it, while he does not totally abandon the human condition. His proposal is aimed at making the ethereal transcend the aesthetic plan, but preserving a certain mundane aspect on its meaning. The painting “Pale Blue Heart” embodies that non-human, post-human duality, resulting in awkward environments made by and to this new people. Instead of featuring the city in a documentary approach, he prefers to present a recreated London without the safety of staring at well-known postal cards.

Lisle’s work eventually invites to experience a distinct sensation of being in this world, which this world is no longer our own. Spectators can rather feel a completely disorientation on how these pieces can really exist, what do they mean. Yet, this is not only about awkward cities and spaces. It includes representing impossible human relationships. Going back to the 1960s Pop Art, Joe Goode and Wayne Thiebaud appear as strong artistic links for this type of alternative representation, where soft image manipulation meets an emulated clarity. In the same way, their work has continuously resulted in incredibly beautiful pieces, as it happens with Lisle’s exercises as well.

Present in the art circuits since the late 1980s, Thomas Lisle shows frequently in the UK, whether via sculpture or installations.  His show is at Koukan Gallery by 3rd of November of 2013. Koukan Gallery – 106A Alexandra Park Road London – N10 2AE