In ‘Present Continuous’, Flora Whiteley presents new paintings that continue her investigation into filmic and stage-like spaces, combining layers of source material to create enigmatic, suggestive scenes. Using a collage aesthetic, Whiteley has collected and de-contextualised source-images, creating ‘quiet moments between the action’, empty rooms and figures in ambiguous activity slowed to the moment before standstill. The work draws on source-material combining personal artefacts with a broad range of found images: holiday snaps, film stills, newspaper cuttings, art history books. The resulting paintings are ambiguous, not depicting any clear sequence of events. What they share is a sense of slowness, verging on stillness depicted in dimly glowing colour.

The starting point for ‘Present Continuous’ is the point at which art, artifice and reality intertwine. Among the references used is documentation from 1980s’ West German art and theatre workshops (Jugendkunstschule). Whiteley has also taken inspiration from the final scenes of of Francois Truffaut’s 1966 dystopian science fiction film, Fahrenheit 451. These scenes depict the Book People, a community of outlaws who memorise entire works of literature, rescuing them from a world in which all books are burnt. The Book People wander the landscape, quietly reciting. When they meet they refer to one another by the name of the work that they have memorised. Their own identity has become subsumed by their Book; they are both isolated by and brought together by this dedication to the written word. As in Whiteley’s paintings, fiction has become indistinguishable from reality.

Artist’s talk: Friday 15 January 6-8pm

Flora Whiteley will be in conversation with Paul Smith, songwriter and musician, best known as the frontman of Newcastle’s Maxïmo Park.

Painting workshop: Saturday 16 January 3-6pm

Flora Whiteley hosts an experimental workshop exploring interior spaces in response to the imagery in her exhibition ‘Present Continuous’. Drawing on her appreciation of film sets, interior design, ornamentation and performed spectacle, the workshop will explore the construction of imaginary spaces. No previous artistic experience is necessary.

Read Elizabeth Black’s essay, Present Continuous