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Director, Liz Gilmore, introduces our new Spring exhibition, Ansel Krut: Verbatim.

It is with great pleasure to introduce Ansel Krut: Verbatim, a survey exhibition of Krut’s key works made over the past 10 years. Dark, subversive, anarchic yet playful, Verbatim is a visual feast of colour and spirited characters.

Whilst perhaps not yet the household name he deserves to be, Ansel Krut is no stranger to Jerwood. Krut was a prize winner in Jerwood’s Drawing Prize in 2004. I first met Ansel a few years prior to that, whilst working with contemporary artists at the National Gallery. Ansel had been invited to the gallery to do an artist’s residency. The opportunity for visitors to engage directly with Ansel and his work elicited a very particular response from visitors at the time and perhaps, informed Ansel’s own practice. Something he describes as the ‘’osmosis effect”.

That period marked the beginning of a huge transformation in Ansel’s work; which then showed strong roots to the fantastical elements of artists like Spaniard, Francisco Jose de Goya (1746-1828), Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch (c.1450-1516), and the wonderful carnivalesque Punchinello drawings by the Italian Fresco painter, Giambattista Tiepolo (1696-1770) (the latter being the brother of the more celebrated painter, Giovnni Battista Tiepolo). It is not easy from outside to understand the impact of such a transformation artistically. It takes a strong nerve, ambition and sacrifice. It was a privilege for me to bear witness to that.

The fifteen works on display in Ansel Krut: Verbatim presents Krut’s artistic transformation in full technicolor, stemming from the year Krut was a Jerwood Drawing Prize winner. The earliest piece, Sonic Boom, 2004, was made when Krut’s own children were young. Colour, shape and form converge in this relatively diminutive painting to create image of a screaming girl. As a parent, it is easy to empathise with the enormous vortex of the child’s mouth! By contrast, the largest and most recent work in the exhibition is Thuggish Houses, 2012, which clearly show the anthromorphic qualities of Krut’s work: architectural detail begin to morph into facial features, the houses quite literally, appear to return our gaze.

With Krut, as with his art, one never gets the expected, and nothing is as it seems. For me, a key joy of the exhibition is seeing the anarchy and playfulness, an aspect that Krut has retained from his earlier work. This exhibition challenges and confronts our own realities and relationships. It’s a world described as creating ‘skewed perceptions and perverse dualities’ yet the characters are in some ways strangely familiar to us all, even if there are some that Krut would say he’d ‘rather not sit next to on the bus’.

Ansel Krut will be in conversation with Jennifer Higgie (co-editor of Frieze Magazine) on Saturday 28 June. Tickets £10 (£8 for Jerwood Gallery members). To book, please call 01424 728377.

Images: Punchinello drawing by Giambattista Tiepolo; Ansel Krut, Sonic Boom, 2004 © the artist. Courtesy Stuart Shave/Modern Art

14 May, 2014
Written by Liz Gilmore