‘High-end Hermès yak wool blankets covered in concrete’ – Alvaro Barrington review Adrian Searle writes about Alvaro Barrington's work on view at the South London Gallery
By Adrian Searle
Hanging high on the walls above our heads, paintings of clouds encircle the South London Gallery. There’s weather coming in, growing more and more troubled as we look. Alvaro Barrington has used concrete to paint the clouds, scuffed and trowelled on to gorgeously dyed, high-end Hermès yak wool blankets. As the storm approaches, the support changes to burlap. As much as these paintings might, at a stretch, look back to JMW Turner or to Constable’s cloud studies, abstract expressionism and informalism are in there, too. It is action painting without the angst, unless, that is, you worry about covering luxury blankets with builder’s concrete. This collision of materials, the one despoiling the other, is part of the point of these intemperate paintings, and one of the several ways in which the artist creates his debased and impure art, which attempts to reflect the textures, complexities and inequalities of the modern world.
Born in 1983 in Venezuela to Grenadian and Haitian migrant workers, Barrington grew up in Grenada and Brooklyn. He studied painting in New York and then at the Slade in London, where he currently lives. You never know what he’s going to do or where his art will go next. Artists often used to complain about being “skied” by whoever hung their pictures so far up the wall you couldn’t get a proper view, but clouds are meant to be seen from afar; otherwise, you’re in the fog. (...)