New Paintings - Cadogan Contemporary
This was the first exhibition featuring what Sargy Mann referred to as his ‘New Paintings’.
Sargy by Daniel Day Lewis.
(Introduction to exhibition catalogue)
Sargy’s painting makes me hungry. The gorgeously sensual works of his new exhibition are edible. I am greedy for them, gorging on image after image. I want more and more, and as I reach the last one I am still ravenous and impatient to start all over again. It’s a reflex, perhaps, in response to his fierce, youthful relish for the paint itself. Just as he wakens to the celebration of other worlds, so am I awoken by him to wonder at his discoveries. There is a freedom in his work, which only one with a supreme mastery of structure, light and color could ever afford. Whatever he owes to other influences and to the rigors of his own technique has long since been digested and paid for.
After the moving, intimate simplicity of the Frances paintings (though there are also a number of beautiful ones here), Sargy, in a gesture of astonishing boldness, has conjured scenes of immensely complex space and depth, a world populated by figures engaged, it seems, in mysterious interplay. There is a fascinating tension between the familiar gaiety of his palette and the solemnity of these visions; between the looseness of his painting and the precision of his composition. This quality of Sargy’s work was never more striking. These pictures evoke the strange, transitional state between dream and consciousness. In his majestic canvases, ‘Infinity Pool I’ and ‘Infinity Pool II’, the figures seem to move slowly, like sun-dazed sleepwalkers, through air thick with heat, or they lounge and slump, heavy with inertia. Each player is stranded at the centre of their own story, each utterly absorbed in their tasks, preoccupations, and themselves. They mostly appear to be unmindful of each other, or if attempting to, not quite managing to communicate. These people are connected only through the painter. They seem to reflect the isolation, intensity and sensuality of the painter and of the process of creativity itself. Time is suspended.
How I long to see the jazz rhythms of Sargy’s hands laying down wash after translucent wash, line and punctuation as these images deepen and develop. The light is often blindingly white, sometimes deep and rich with an earlier or later sun or the refuge of the shade. The crazy angles and flash bulb white in “Frances at the Top of the Stairs”; the nude so ingeniously fleshed, immersed and luxuriating in her bath of light and her aloneness in ‘Standing Nude, after Bonnard’.
Nearly forty years ago, I lived under the same roof as Sargy. I remember so well his vigour and sense of purpose as he set out for a day of painting. Box and boards, a long stride, eyes aglitter. I looked forward to the fisherman’s return, which was never empty-handed. I was fascinated, perhaps even a little envious, of his quiet, optimistic self-containment, not having yet discovered the vital marriage of love, hard work, and discipline myself. He just got on with it. I loved his pictures then. His work was delightful and no less self-assured, but since that time his world has darkened and then flooded with light and joy. It has gained in depth and mystery. His visual honesty now swims on a current of imaginative and emotional honesty. I think after many years of placing himself in the shadow of his master, with no loss of modesty he now dares to stand in the light. The well-spring of imagination is no longer held at bay like a delicious sin but flows through him and his brushes. His forms have such weight and impeccable perspective, and yet they’ve been urgently summoned with spells of pigment-infused vapor. Nothing is careless; all is apparently carefree. The vibrating tonal blues, roses and yellows, purples and greens, whites and blacks– these are fibers of living matter applied in line, latticework, scribble, slash and stab, laid on and dripped. Is the painter observing himself in a dazzling white suit and hat as he appears from below, stage left, in ‘Café by the Sea, Girls in Green?’ Or upstage centre in ‘Infinity Pool I’? Fully artist and subject, master and pupil, the source of all this beauty is himself and the full depth of himself.
Daniel Day Lewis, 2010