Drawing No Conclusions

May 21–July 2, 2022

MINE PROJECT (now MOU PROJECTS) is pleased to present "Drawing No Conclusions," the second solo exhibition by Alex Gardner with the gallery and in Hong Kong. Presenting the latest series of works on paper, this exhibition extends Gardner's focus on the articulation of body language clues and talks about the universal questions about individuality or integrity.

At no point in his artistic journey did Alex Gardner seek to face the spectator with a formed subject matter of self-explanatory scenes. Sprouting from simple, enigmatical, and somewhat caricature-like ink drawings, his paintings developed into candid scenes in which the presence of the viewer is acknowledged but not necessarily welcomed by the protagonists. This concept conditioned the unusual framing and unexpected compositional proposals, enabling the artist to focus on the articulation of fingers, wrists, feet, postures, and other body language clues. Working with layers of watered-down acrylics and oversaturating the canvas surface with the dramatic color contrasts, these almost cinematic snapshots allowed for the suggestive gestures or postures to outweigh the importance of realism or anatomical correctness. Mixed with exceptionally smoothened aesthetics, such a Mannerism-like glorification of elegance and aesthetics pushed the subjects a few steps closer to an avatar, bionic appearance, so while their hair curls and the drape-intense, white t-shirts evoke the class of ancient Greeks in togas, their existence within the pastel, stylized, and often abstracted environments pulled them back into the current moment of increasingly virtual existence. Along with a total absence of any cultural signifiers, such an unidentifiable time and space setup are the main qualities of Gardner's universally relatable oeuvre. The faceless human figures reduced to sentient silhouettes became the common denominators through which the artist speaks of a complex and personally elusive concept of identity. From there, the conversation unravels towards relationships, communication, belonging, solitude, and general human experience, continuously resisting the gravity pull of the work revolving around racial identity.

Interested in speaking of these complex themes by giving the least possible amount of information, the atmosphere relies on tension and urgency in which the action can be seen either as safe or threatening, grasping or releasing, pulling or pushing, depending on the viewers' context. And the way such almost clandestine scenes are laid out and rendered is something that Gardner seems to be especially interested in. Thematically extending on the paintings and existing in the same world, the nine works on paper comprising "Drawing No Conclusions" mark a fresh step on that journey by focusing on the immediacy of the process rather than making a significant contextual shift. With the removal of the brush as a mediator between the hand and the medium, the new soft pastel works on paper are revealing all the decisions that led to the final result through its grainy texture. Unable to rely on the gradients of diluted paint when shaping the volumes, or light and shadow effects, these defining elements are now delivered through the mix of heavily saturated colors. Still offsetting the potential darkness of suggested narratives with the carefully chosen hue and value range, a comfortable and suiting palette is built from the specks of pastel marks on the coarse surface of the paper. By doing so, the body shapes, the drapes, the contrasts, and the light setup get more intensified, earning an additional glow of contemporary artificiality. Due to the way these visuals are composed and rendered, the accent seems to be on the corporeality of human experience, but instead of talking about the evident race and/or gender issues, Gardner insists on universal questions about individuality or integrity. Besides that, the mixing of the vibrant pastel hues to render more intense surroundings suggests the interest in the way we're interacting with the environment and affecting each other. This approach can extend to attributing the setting to character-like qualities through which it is directly interacting with the human protagonists (Monument; Wedged; Left Or Right It's All The Same, all works 2022). Perhaps implying more exact subject matter through the titles of the work (Left Or Right It's All The Same; Useless Nostalgia), the ambivalence is now blazing through these romanticized portrayals of the universal human existence. Still not pinpointing any definite narratives or drawing conclusions, Gardner is drawing and introducing new forms of blank templates to which the observer can apply their own moods or experiences.

(Essay by Saša Bogojev)

About the Artist
Alex Gardner (b. 1987, Long Beach, California, US) is a figurative painter working in acrylic to make colorful canvases that smooth over cultural signifiers, featuring anonymized avatars that anyone can see themselves reflected in. His cool, surreal canvases portray androgynous, mostly featureless Black subjects situated amid spare color fields.

Gardner uses dark, inky hues to render these figures' skin and adorns them with pastel-tinged clothing. This contrast creates both tactile warmth and a sense of distance, which is amplified thanks to the sitters' lack of recognizable features. These anonymized forms variously raise questions about racial identity, gender roles, and the chilly nature of digital interactions. The artist has referenced Old Masters, including El Greco and Michelangelo, giving art historical traditions a contemporary update.

Gardner's works have been exhibited in New York, London, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Copenhagen, and Mexico City. In 2022, he had his first solo institutional exhibition at the Long Beach Museum of Art.

The artist currently lives and works in Long Beach, California, US.

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MOU PROJECTS is a Hong Kong-based contemporary art gallery established in 2019. Since its inception, the gallery has been dedicated to showcasing both local and international emerging artists working in all media and has held many of their first solo exhibitions in Hong Kong as well as in Asia. With an aim to facilitate artistic dialogues and conceptual innovations, the gallery supports artists whose experimental practices and boundary-pushing ethos reflect the current social reality and manifest alternative contemporary aesthetics.

Email: info@mouprojects.com
Tel: +852 3709 6884
Opening Hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 11am–7pm; closed on public holidays.
Address: 202, The Factory, 1 Yip Fat Street, Wong Chuk Hang, Hong Kong

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