Two figures, neither quite male nor female, engage in a fierce embrace. Their swollen, Mickey Mouse-like hands are gripped around the other's neck in something that resembles a dance, a wild hug, or perhaps a fight. Even their wardrobes are ambiguous -- one character is wearing three clothing pieces when people normally wear two and the other looks as if he/she has slipped his skin on top of his clothes, instead of the other way around.
This peculiar mixture of sharpness and uncertainty is what makes Nicola Tyson so intriguing.
The London-born, New York-based artist, who seems to enjoy all things lumpy, brittle and bright creates simple yet unnerving depictions that show the close proximity between familiarity and the unknown. Although there is no easy way to describe what's gone awry in Tyson's painted world, something about the cheery-colored characters and their not-quite-banal relations consistently teeters on the grotesque.
In her new exhibition "Trouble in Happiness," Tyson shifts from oils to acrylics on linen, which are pinned directly to the wall instead of stretched and mounted on a canvas. This raw approach only adds to the jagged intrigue that take Tyson's works from cartoonish to gory. The show also contains a series of graphite drawings, landing somewhere between a lost Francis Bacon and the agitated doodles of a pent-up child.
In Tyson's tangled world, no single line can be definitively pinned down, let alone an entire image. Her works are decidedly ambiguous and yet unrelentingly decisive all the same. Gazing upon them gives the familiar sensation of being in a privileged position, trying to enjoy yourself, as small and unshakeable annoyances creep their way into your psyche, perverting the entire scenario. See the works below and let us know your interpretation in the comments.
“Trouble in Happiness” runs until April 12, 2014 at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects.