New works by Lewis Henderson and Felix Treadwell. Text by Charlie Mills. Organized by Alia Hamaoui.
Taken at first glance, it may seem hard to reconcile a family of cute red mushrooms with the green anatomy of a motherboard. Where one reminds me of childish adolescence - reading comic books and drawing cartoons - the other fills me with teenage dread: exposed wires and glitchy screens. Felix Treadwell and Lewis Henderson are both artists that come with their own set of cultural references and inside jokes, whether it be the angst-ridden portraits of Yoshïtomo Nara or a PowerPoint show of Martin Kippenberger’s Model Interconti (1987). In some senses they seem a world apart, yet at the heart of their practices is a common consideration of what it means to grow up in the here and now, in a social milieu burying its head in the wake of postmodern relativism: the final remanence for the possibility of something new. It’s sad to say, but for our generation it’s almost a platitude to speak of anxiety under late capitalism; the sense that we are trapped, unable to escape from the system. This is something that both artists have regularly explored in their work, albeit each with a different trajectory.
In Felix’s previous work he has followed the cartoon character Rupert as he meanders the social pressures and woes of teenage melancholy. He is seen doe eyed, sat at purple computer screens, chasing birds in the park and having a quick swim. All the while he treasures a gormless smile that keeps him at peace with the world, his frequent tears and protracted nose telling us otherwise. These are the paradoxical affects of a subject merrily resigned to the condition of eternal loneliness, a concept very much at home online. His new series of paintings diverge quite clearly from this narrative. The few human characters presented are not shown with a grin, but a puzzled expression. As one waits tentatively for eight single drops of rain to splatter on their head, two others stare out nonplussed to the anonymous smoke of a far off fire. The real characters this time are the mushrooms and trees; staged in a moment of adolescent reflection, they resound the familiar griefs of political ennui and social dislocation. However, caught in the limp posture of a baby shroom, or the bland profile of a moonlit pine tree, these social ills are charged with a cosmic despair. They become their own little worlds; totems for the anaemia of our ecological sense.
Moving away from his previous work on canvas, Lewis has begun a new series of works using the dismembered bodies of digital photo frames, coupled with the programming of exposed motherboards. His piece Snapz (2018) takes found images online to elaborate a well-known joke in the service industry: the immortalisation of ad hoc staff in online wedding photos. There’s a certain comedy to be had here, the uncanny moment you spot yourself in a stranger’s holiday snaps. But taken with the Photoshopped outlines of his cropped subjects, Lewis points to the increasing role of biometric technologies in surveillance techniques. Living in London - the most CCTV equipped city on Earth - these systems will not only track your present movements, but your future and past too. This unsavoury thought is magnified in the post-cyberpunk aesthetics of his steel brackets, exposed nails and laminated chipboard. A retort to contemporary mysticisms abounding in the technological sublime: those who would rather pray for their Wifi than fix it, the perverse mix of dystopia and eschatology that that is.
This aspect is analogous in Lewis and Felix’s works: the creation of new ‘realities’. Both present us with a comic circumstance; a reference to something cute or droll. Where one mines over, one mines under. However, this is not what constitutes their aura as artworks. Indeed, one might argue that all ‘good art’ takes us to places we never knew exist. Rather, it is the subtle inscriptions of a social and technological milieu grounded in seclusion and control that establishes their potency as artworks. A subject of which I’m sure we are all too familiar, and to which I’ve no doubt they will return.