Much-loved London landmarks, from the brick cathedral that is Battersea Power Station to the bright dome of St Paul’s, take on a whole new light in Thresholds to Brighter Worlds, a new exhibition by Scottish painter Renny Tait at London’s Flowers Gallery. Also showing are paintings of Portland Bill, Dorset’s loyal lighthouse, and Piazza dei Miracoli and its famous drunken campanile the Leaning Tower of Pisa (reborn in gilt rather than its infamous chalky white).
But without the grounding sights of passers-by or gliding cranes, these well-known structures become untethered, instead taking on a idyllic Toy Town-ish appearance. London’s Brutalist Hayward Gallery has been bestowed with a vast central tower, spare and medieval in appearance (all that’s missing is an archer poised with arrow). There’s more to this tinkering than vanity though – in this case it recalls Tait’s own preoccupation with Scottish castles, which he sees as symbols of refuge and hope in a hostile environment. And where is better to hide from darkness than in an art gallery?
Tait’s reconstructed landscapes are warming and reassuring, allowing us to consider the vital functions of the giants of steel, stone and brick that surround us in isolation from their real life neighbours. Here, Battersea Power Station towers tall, as Tait puts it, “a cathedral of industry”; dominant, vital and cherished. By stripping back a building’s superfluous details, or adding what we might make great use of (a gold dome! Why not?), Thresholds to Brighter Worlds invites us to look at our surroundings with fresh eyes, memories safely stowed.
Renny Tait, Thresholds to Brighter Worlds runs until February 17, 2018 at Flowers Gallery, Cork Street, London.