Oh Rats! Exhibition at Thames-Side Studios, London, 18th July - 23rd August 2020
Abi Huxtable presents a new series of paintings, created at her home studio in Essex during the coronavirus pandemic.
In Chinese astrology 2020 is the Year of the Rat. According to this system of thought the Rat is a symbol of renewal, wealth and surplus. Discovering this amidst the lockdown Huxtable adopted the Rat as a central motif to use in her paintings – intrigued not only by this positive symbolism of the much maligned animal, but it’s close association to previous pandemics, namely the plague and black death.
The Rats in Huxtable’s paintings are a cast of characters from her imagination. Varying in representation they are always portrayed in a benign, naïve manner: ranging from cartoon-ish depictions to simple abstract representations. They are singular isolated entities, sanitised to an extent, but eschewing cuteness.
The predominant use of primary colours in the paintings creates a sense of innocence, particularly in those depicting basic geometric shapes, reminiscent of children’s building blocks. Yet the colours are never pure; dirty whites, and greys pervade the paintings so that one feels a sense of ambivalence, neither complete sterility nor filthiness.
Huxtable consistently works with an array of references, reflecting her broad range of interests from Eastern mysticism to cave paintings. The work is often resistant to a singular interpretation due to the multiplicity of meaning inherent in the work, but personal or autobiographical elements are often key. For instance, in Gut instinct (every Saturday is pizza night) the subject is inspired by both her Saturday night pizza making ritual, as well as a popular youtube video of a rat dragging a pizza slice on the New York subway. In When will we dance again? (fishing for the stars), the green dots of paint across the canvas form the constellation of her birth sign (Gemini) whilst also referring to videos on social media of pet rats fishing for peas. The Rat itself was inspired by the Bradshaw rock paintings in Australia.
Abi Huxtable (b. 1979, UK) graduated with an MA in Painting at the Royal College of Art, London in 2017. She has appeared in group shows in London and the UK since 2015. Her studio is based in Unit 8, Studio TB-124.