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Review: Brendan Lyons’ Mixtape at Bridewell Studios and Gallery

When we picture an exhibition, we fill it with artefacts, objects, and paintings, pushing their way into the space and making a home there, albeit a temporary one. So it is refreshing that Brendan Lyons’ latest exhibition at Bridewell Studios, ‘Mixtape’, takes our comfortable notions of art as addition and compromises it.

After/Before is the first of the exhibition rooms. In it, Lyons explores our expectations of the exhibition space, our willingness to paint our pre-conceived notions and judgements onto the blank walls and our ability to inflict our own narrative to the existing artwork.

The room comprises twenty two paintings, all of which appear to be a collection of picture hooks dotted around the walls at varying angles. There’s even one on top of the fireplace.
But they aren’t hooks, they are acrylic paintings, each exquisite and precise, and the viewer adds the details beyond the parameters of the paint, adding the perspective to each hook, filling in the gaps.

It’s a staggering new take on the old idiom of the glass half-full/half-empty, forcing the viewer to put themselves in the frame – what do you see, a room waiting for the pictures to be hung or a room in which the exhibition is nothing but memory?

The three blu paintings have a similar effect, calling to mind the blue periods of artists like Picasso and Van Gogh and exploring the link between communication and memory, where the paint symbolises attachment, like blu tack stubbornly sticking to a postcard or a wall – memory persists even when the detail is hazy.

This dreamlike state continues in the main exhibition room where there is more tape thrown into the mix, except it isn’t, it is all illusory. Lyons is a master magician, creating complex illusions from everyday objects; acrylic paint painstakingly mimicking masking tape; cracked glass that is nothing more than an artistic trick of the eye.

There’s a surrealist energy behind this exhibition, a playfulness sweeping along the walls, making you wonder how he’s achieved such tremendous effects.

I was delighted to see ‘Endemical’ gracing the walls for a second time, having briefly appeared at Bridewell Studios earlier this year. An exquisite instillation of hand-painted acrylic leaves and vines, the effect is stunning – exceptionally realistic and more vibrant than the real thing.

The vine leaves trailing across the stretched canvas create the illusion of an Italian window and emit Romeo and Juliet vibes, while the pool of acrylic paint at the feet of the installation reminds us of the exhibit’s fragility.

Brendan Lyons’ exhibitions may not hang around for long, but they linger in the memory long after the paintings have come down.

Mixtape by Brendan Lyons Bridewell Studios and Gallery is now closed
Words & Pictures, Donna Gowland