Often buildings are not given time to decay. Many are interrupted by a sudden death and left fossilized in partial horizontality. Such violent anti-architectural gestures found in modern urban conflict zones, are meticulously reiterated in the paintings of Gerry Judah, whose solo exhibition Babylon is currently on view at the Flowers Gallery in London.
Judah’s works could be more accurately described as a hybrid between paintings, sculpture and architectural models. Near the death-spreading epicenter of the canvases, hang unnerving ruins of miniaturized settlements and buildings that have met their inglorious end. Parts are still erected but deprived of the direction builders would have given them. Instead, they come out horizontally from the canvas, and their bones stretch to meet our still breathing bellies – an ominous act but more likely, a disguised hope for human touch. They seem to menace the wholeness of our body with their dismembered communication remains, with the void at the end of the stairwells and the deafness of the satellite dishes. At the same time, their positioning on the canvas seems to follow the stillness of a photograph – it somehow allows emotional distance and contemplation from “above”. The physical threat and the psychological retreat that is offered, are as conflicting as the presence of so much absence, delivered in so many meticulously destroyed fragments.
Gerry Judah’s “dead zones” could be anywhere from the Middle East to Eastern Europe, from Baghdad to Belgrade.There is a similarity in death, despite being a unique moment in one’s life or the life of a building. But while his previous works Frontiers (2005), Angels (2006) or Motherlands (2007) were all executed in a ghostly white color, in this body of works he adds black and red. There is a distinct growth in emotions. What red has supplemented for, is the pain that is absent in his bloodless white cityscape of murdered ruins. Red is also limited only to his circular canvases, making them less perfect of a geometry, and more doomed in this human madness of modern warfare. In a sense, his paintings are a sculptural rendering of the otherness, the collapse of a unified society be it by language, religion or memory. God, in an act similar to Judah’s, destroyed the Tower of Babylon that its unified people were trying to build to reach heaven. With this injurious behavior, diversity was restored.
Gerry Judah has been working with this theme and materials for the past few years, each time convincingly depicting these unrecoverable urban landscapes. The political and aesthetic contents of those miniaturized aftermaths of war maintain their autonomous status on the canvas until the repetition loses its power to activate further political thought, and the visual takes over. Even then, saturation comes fast. And before it all becomes ruinous memory, it sadly occurs to us that the geometry of an interrupted and broken architecture is sometimes more telling about our contemporaneity than the intact architecture in which we live.