For the first time, Fragile Lands will bring together a rare collection of Gerry Judah’s highly acclaimed three-dimensional paintings with a newly created sculptural series Bengal. Visually forceful and sensitively crafted, Judah’s poetic works engage with pressing geopolitical issues of conflict and climate change, while remaining deeply personal.
During his illustrious career, Judah has exhibited internationally in spaces ranging from the David Roberts Art Foundation to the British High Commission in Delhi. His striking Great War memorial installation is currently on display in the nave at St Paul’s Cathedral, London. This May, Encounter will bring Judah’s arresting work to a monumental warehouse in Peckham, an area well-known for operating at the forefront of London’s contemporary art scene. Fragile Lands marks ten years since Judah’s first highly acclaimed, solo exhibition Frontiers in Hoxton, London.
‘Ruins hide things. Not just the memory of what they were, but the memories they still contain’ (Robert Fisk on Gerry Judah, The Independent).
Twice commissioned by the Imperial War Museum, Judah artfully documents destruction by creating artworks that both viscerally engage with the stark realities of war and evoke the ephemeral traces of traumas left in its wake. Judah’s ‘dystopian maquettes’ are made with the inevitability that they will be destroyed. With acrylic gesso on canvas, glue and foam board, the artist meticulously composes architectural representations of sites that have become metonymic of past and present conflict, before physically smashing them, leaving behind an abstract detritus of ruined buildings. Through re-appropriating media images of war-torn cities, from Beirut to Baghdad, Judah’s works self-consciously disrupt the apathy and voyeurism that too often comprise our response to destruction. They make physically present the “landscapes of loss” with which we have become disturbingly familiar. The shattered fragments and spikes that form his painterly work make palpable the personal, whilst lending emotive weight to the collective narratives deeply embedded in the canvas. As Judah suggests, “It is the duty of culture to reach further than just the walls it sits on. It mustn’t be parochial, but rather stretch beyond items of war.”
Judah has previously worked in film, television and theatre, creating settings for the BBC, Royal Shakespeare Company, Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney amongst many others. His spatial sensibility can still be felt in the dramatic, emotive and physical scale of his recent artworks, which operate on a captivating boundary between painting, architecture and sculpture. In his recent Bengal series, Judah turns his attention to the slow devastation wrought by climate change in India, the country in which he was born and grew up. As in his earlier works, Judah’s engrossing visual spectacles encourage viewers to engage with the complex, the almost unapproachable: the histories of growth and loss, tradition and modernization that are layered in the country.
In his exquisitely detailed sculptures, the structures of temples, electricity pylons and religious artifacts are precariously balanced on rickshaws, a mode of transport that has come to symbolize India’s ingenuity and urban dynamism. Constructed in part from coal and ash, they performatively enact the environmental burden of human industry, while also representing communities’ inherently creative capacity to recycle, to move forward. “These intricate, fragile and colourful works reflect the beauty of India amongst its degradation” (Jane Morrow, Curator Wolverhampton Art Gallery).