Annabelle Shelton: All Summer Long
by David Rayson
(Excerpt from the Market Project book- find out how to buy it and read all the commissioned texts in full here.)
Looking at the larger beach scenes by Annabelle Shelton we encounter very quickly an unsettling paradox between the beach as an endless and timeless space, and the detailed minutia of the many individuals choreographed across the surface of the work.
Shelton’s work focuses upon the beach as a destination that continually draws large crowds of sun-worshipers, families on their annual holidays and seasonal
tourists. The beach in her paintings becomes an indefinable landscape as it is systematically transposed into a neutral, white space. The effect of this is to highlight the occupants of these spaces as an interconnecting landscape of figures; the elbows of a sunbather connect with the heel of a woman offering a beach ball to her small son, whose blonde hair in turn connects with another family group. Each individual develops a micro narrative to create its own separate story. But each ‘atom’ of the tale contributes directly to the overall composition of the work.
Psychologically the seemingly opposing forces of ethereal space and the topographically detailed individual continually pull against one another. We are at once enveloped in the infinite neutrality and dispassionate distance we feel when encountering a large crowd of people, whilst intermittently zooming in to find individual narratives and witness personal relationships, connecting intimate groups, couples or lone sunbathers within the crowd.
The experience of viewing one of Shelton’s beach works is heightened by the realisation that as viewer we have both the privileged position of being able to survey the anonymous crowd, whilst being fully aware that annually on a busy summer beach we too are viewed from a distance, we lose our individuality and become part of the crowd. Shelton selects images with a deliberate intellectual precision. Each figure or item – be it a parasol or bare breasted lady – is positioned to create a considered landscape, which when viewed from a distance evokes a naturally occurring landscape. Each tiny element has a deliberate and subjective place in the overall construction of the work.
David Rayson was born in Wolverhampton in 1966. He received his BA at Maidstone College of Art in 1989, before completing his PGCE at University of Bristol in 1991, and his MA in 1997. Rayson has been a visiting lecturer, guest speaker and panel speaker on painting, drawing and their motivating narratives, at many art colleges, art institutions and galleries throughout the UK, and continues to be directly involved in supporting emerging artists. In 2008 he was invited to deliver a series of lectures at the Central Academy of Fine Art, and Tsinghua University in Beijing, China.
He has held major solo exhibitions at Marlborough Fine Art, London, Kettles Yard, Cambridge and Maureen Paley/Interim Art. His work has been exhibited at Tate Britain, Tate Modern, The Whitechapel Art Gallery, The ICA, The Lowry Gallery, Manchester, and Turner Contemporary, Margate. He was co-selector and curator of the 2007 Jerwood Contemporary Painters, and the 2010 Threadneedle Art Prize. Rayson’s work is included in many public and private collections both in the UK and internationally.
His new work explores fantastical escapism with a new body of paintings, drawings and public talks in The Voyage. David Rayson is currently Professor of Painting at the Royal College of Art.