Lawrie Shabibi opened the September 2022 Art Season with ‘Fractured Landscapes’, a solo exhibition by London artist Nathaniel Rackowe, his third exhibition at the gallery.
Rackowe’s practice spans public art, installation, sculpture, contemporary dance and painting; investigating form and materiality through his observations of light and the effect its vicissitudes have on our experiences of urban spaces. Whereas in previous exhibitions, Rackowe worked with light as a source (embedding neon tubes into his sculptures), in this exhibition he considers the notion of light (artificial and natural) as a reflector – these works explore how light bounces across objects to guide our sensation of space, material and colour.
The title of the exhibition is inspired by a passage from ‘Klara and the Sun’ by acclaimed writer Kazuo Ishiguro. Klara, the Artificial Friend protagonist of the novel, understands her environment in moments of intense focus by fracturing the visual information she receives. There is a beautiful description of this happening in the setting sun across a rural landscape. This moment brings Klara great clarity and an ability to step back and see things from different angles simultaneously. Rackowe read the book during a period of reevaluating his spatial surroundings, exploring London differently during the lockdown, and reassessing his life after surviving cancer. The intersection of the rural and built environments in London became increasingly significant, and he found his work shifting to focus on natural light, reflection, horizon, and fractured undulating surfaces that seemed to layer the natural and built.
In ‘Fractured Landscapes’ Rackowe presents Fractured City, an installation conceived to occupy the central floor of the gallery, around which visitors circulate. It develops his work ‘Expanded Landscapes, 2022’, commissioned for this year’s Canary Wharf Summer Lights Festival. The installation consists of silver reflective film and black building netting panels extended between black timber rectangular frames arranged to intersect at various heights across the gallery floor. The form and reflectivity of the installation echo the built environment of high-rise city centres, where surface, colour, transparency and form come together to act as an expansive counterpoint to the adjacent architecture.
In his new wall sculptures, Rackowe employs raw materials to create angled smooth surfaces that alter with each movement by the viewer. Aluminium honeycomb GRP sheets, a material more commonly found in aircraft, form the basis of his assemblages, their intricate honeycomb configuration exposed on the side view of the sculptures. These sheets are layered with dichroic film, a material that creates stimulating colour effects that bend the colour of light as you move around them. The arrangements vary in size and form – at times they are positioned horizontally to resemble vents, vertically to create multiple reflections or with variations in their symmetry to create fluidity and motion. Together they create playful and energising effects – bright vivid surfaces that are in constant motion.
“The approach to making these new works is much more instinctual and process led than I have ever worked before. They are about connecting urban and rural space in a city, an unpicking and making sense of the natural and urban and abstracting them. This is my approach to landscape painting.”
In ‘Fractured Landscapes’ Rackowe seeks to capture and fix something of transcendental moments of clarity that he, like Klara, found in moments alone in the landscape.
Nathaniel Rackowe was born in the UK in 1975 and graduated from the Slade School of Fine Art with an MFA in sculpture.
Recent solo and group shows include Summer Lights Festival, Canary Wharf, London, 2022; The Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK, 2022; Folly at Tremenheere Sculpture Park, London, UK, 2022; Passing Through, Fold Gallery, Fitzrovia, London, UK, 2021; EVI Lichtungen, Light Art Festival, Hildesheim, Germany, 2020; Lightkeepers, S12 Gallery, Bergen, Norway, 2020; Luminous Territories solo, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai, UAE, 2019; The Shape of City, Letitia Art Gallery, Beirut, 2018; Threshold, FOLD Gallery, London, UK, 2018; (De)figured, Dance / Installation with Angela Woodhouse, Elephant x Griffin, London, UK, 2018; Signs of a City, Galerie Jérôme Pauchant, Paris, France, 2017; Parasolstice – Winter Light, Parasol Unit, London, UK, 2016; The Luminous City, Canary Wharf, London, UK, 2016; Radiant Trajectory, Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai, UAE, 2015; Edge Lands, Galerie Jérôme Pauchant, Paris, France, 2014 and The Consequence of Light, Bodson Gallery, Brussels, Belgium, 2014.
His works are in notable public and private collections, including Ventes Privées, Paris, France; Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), Tasmania, Australia; CIFO (Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation), Miami, FL, USA; Jumex Collection, Mexico City, Mexico; Museum of Modern Art, Lima, Peru; LVMH Collection, Paris, France; David Roberts Collection, London, UK; UK Government Art Collection, London, UK; Hauser & Wirth Collection, London, UK; Ernst & Young Collection, London, UK; VR d’Affaux Collection, Paris, France; Patricia Marshall, Private collection, Paris, France; Marc Blondeau, Private collection, Geneva, Switzerland; Almine-Rech-Picasso, Private collection, Paris, France; Salama Bint Hamdan Foundation, Abu Dhabi, UAE and Modern Forms, UK.
Rackowe currently lives and works in London.