Thorns, Alex, Underhill, 2023, Oil Paint on Bed Sheets, Iron Nails, Rosebushes, Compost, Speakers, Soundscape (Duration 10 Minutes) MP3. 60 X 260x 100 Cm (Painting 200 X 90 Cm)
‘Thorns’ is self-expressive in nature; it is an emotional and intimate retelling of a breakup. By breaking down the boundaries between painting and viewer, by combining sculptural elements and soundscapes, expanded paintings can engage with the work on a personal and introspective level. The juxtaposition of all these elements expresses the complexity of the grief and emotion of a breakup.
‘Thorns’ draws attention to the importance of language; from the handwriting on the canvas animating the text and the spoken word privately expressed in the soundscape; both express their own emotive language. Underhill use their own poems within their work, in text and in spoken word form. The soundscape within ‘Thorns’ reiterates this story of a relationship and a subsequent breakup, through poetry illustrated by distorted and layered domestic found sounds and an instrument.
A bed sheet is used instead of a cotton canvas, illustrating the significance and value of personal and private spaces in which we feel safe. The construction of the canvas is approximately the size of a single bed, Underhill uses this to further reflect on the idea of private spaces vs lonely spaces, after returning to a single bed or empty bed following a breakup. The reclaimed old bedding use as a canvas was the artist personal belonging and reiterates the symbolic nature of the rose as it is printed with a repeated rose pattern.
Underhill has planted rose bushes in upturned soil in front of their canvas. These bushes and rose heads will decay over time, giving the viewer an unpleasant experience, contradicting the typical expectation of the growth, beauty and romance that is associated with the idea of roses. The roses also mark the passing of time as they are ephemeral living things which are noticeably subject to decay if not tended.
The canvas’ sculptural element is made up of rusted nails poking through the canvas, which are not visible from certain angles. These rusty nails represent the protective thorns of roses, that are sometimes overlooked when imagining the beauty and purpose of a rose. The artist believes self-expression, however brutal and jarring it may seem, is an act of self-resilience and preservation, which can also be beautiful.
Underhill’s practice explores the multidisciplinary; this includes photography, poetry, oil paintings, sculpture and soundscapes, which blend seamlessly to create expanded paintings. They use the language of painting and poetry to explore ideas around their experiences, neurodivergence and identity.