Breaking The Cycle: Art Moorhouse, 120 London Wall, London.

21 Nov 2019 - 6 Jan 2020

Approaching the burning ghats of Varanasi through the narrow winding streets leading to the edge of the Ganges, you press yourself into any available small recess or doorway as another funeral party passes by. The deceased held high on their shoulders, wrapped in fine materials, accompanied by singing and prayers. On arrival, the body will be dipped five times into the river, representing the five elements, then left on the steps while the water drains away. It is then placed on the pyre and lit from the embers of the eternal flame. This small fire has reputedly been kept burning by the descendants of the same family for many centuries.

Varanasi is one of seven holy cities in India and the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. Many head there to end their days in order to escape samsara, the cycle of rebirth and to achieve moksha or spiritual liberation. The journey is a cause for celebration as much as for sorrow, the bodies slowly reduced to ash among the flames. Enormous stacks of timbers stretch along every street and alleyway and at the river's edge, piles of ashes are consigned to the dark waters of the Ganges. Dogs and cattle pick their way along the bank as the next pyres are prepared and set alight. Colour abounds but always moderated by the greys and sooty blacks of the ash and scorched timbers.

This recent series of work was inspired by a trip to Varanasi and many previous journeys to India. The structure of the timbers lent a strong abstract motif to many of the paintings. Likewise, thoughts and ideas based around samsara and moksha gave shape to the composition and design, stained with the memories and experience of colour and place. The work continues to be less about finish as about process, a process, in part, about not knowing, one that may reveal something new and unexpected. The picture finds itself in the mysterious and compelling process of being painted. The visual language is bold and simple, using various large tools with generous, direct application of paint. Texture breaking and activating surface, a simpler arrangement and form of expression. A balance between action and stillness, light and dark, the seeking of infinite variety in repetition, through accident and chance. Intuitive, a felt response to these timeless ceremonies a meditation on the universal human condition that perhaps binds us closer in this ever more fractured world.
Marcus Hodge, 2019