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Rokeby will present LA based painter, Allison Schulnik's first solo exhibition in the UK.
Within thickly sculpted oil paint Allison Schulnik presents moments that mix historical fact with blatant fiction. Majestic dramas and compositions embody the spirit of the macabre in a Shakespearian brand of love, death and farce providing the viewer with a haunting sense of foreboding combined with compassion and expectation.
Frequently there is no recognisable central compositional focal point in Schulnik's largest paintings; in Wrestling, 2007 fantastical figures twist and turn across the canvas mutating into and alongside the paint. However as was the case in historical portraiture when painting solitary figures or beings the artist does focus on the subject's gaze. In so doing Schulnik creates an unforgettable sense of apprehension on a fundamental level, but aims also to reveal a more deep-seated sense of understanding and compassion for her troupe of cast-offs.
In many instances Schulnik appears to draw from literature and a contemporary sense of the gothic, however her heroes are culled from the imagination and subsequently elevated into the realm of painting. Engulfed in layers of gloopy paint each of Schulnik's characters, whether misshapen animals or alien beast, are however built upon a human frame, which results in an awkward and surprising earthliness. As with our contemporary understanding of tragedy the protagonists appear both admirable and flawed, so that we are at once able to understand and sympathize with them whether they are occupied with otherworld buffoonery or presented in a simple, dignified moment. Schulnik even dedicates whole canvases to painted bouquets in their honor.
Further references to art history include Schulnik's romantic landscapes; here her palette lightens and there is a greater sense of space within the compositions. This is evident in two new works for the exhibition; Empty Stubbs Landscape 1 and 2, where the landscapes are devoid of the central characters of the original paintings, it is here that the artist hopes the viewer's own unique experiences can be played out.
It may appear that Schulnik has a love hate relationship with her subjects but the true dichotomy exists with the paint itself. By using old, worn brushes, and thick concoctions of paint scraped from failed experiments the artist does not allow herself the flexibility and time to concentrate on any one area of a composition. Despite what could be mistaken for excess in her use of paint, the artist achieves a measure of control in the apparent chaos to form coherent scenes, which emerge from the paint.
Schulnik received her BFA in Experimental Animation at the California Institute of Arts in 2000. Her paintings have been exhibited internationally at venues including Mark Moore Gallery, Los Angeles, Black Dragon Society, Los Angeles, Bellwether Gallery, New York, Groeflin Maag Galerie, Basel, The Armory Show, New York, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Santa Monica Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Schulnik's work is included in a number of public and private collections worldwide.