Andrew Litten 'The Human Shadow (The Animal Smile)'

Lit­ten’s deeply empa­thet­ic lat­est exhi­bi­tion brings togeth­er mul­ti-scale paint­ings with works on paper and sculpture.

The Human Shadow (The Animal Smile)’, Andrew Litten’s latest solo exhibition at Anima Mundi, has been created over the last three years, bringing together multi-scale paintings with works on paper and original sculptures including a life size bronze.

The raw, gestural, often visceral figuration that Litten is known for, is heightened and further nuanced by the expressive potential of working across various media. The art critic Laura Gasgoigne recently said “emotions are not just difficult to articulate in words; they are also impatient of the rules of art. To facilitate expression, rules must be bent and it is often the self-taught artists – Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Francis Bacon - who dare to bend them. Litten ranks among the rule-benders. His paintings are unapologetically figurative but refuse to follow figurative convention. They sit on the fence between individual consciousness and objective reality: to borrow the title of one of his paintings, on a ‘liminal stage’.”

“Invisible threads are the strongest ties.” - Friedrich Nietzsche

Building upon his last exhibition ‘Concerning The Fragile’ which was created prior to lockdown with particular focus towards the theme of human vulnerability; this exhibition arguably embodies wider ranging subject matter, further tonality and encourages broader complex and often contradictory emotive readings of human identity, hope, loss, disturbance and transience.

This selection of works, continues the artists exploration of existential human solitude through our innate capacity and desire to connect with, and also disconnect from, others and the world that we inhabit. As the exhibition title alludes, ‘The Human Shadow’ reflects upon territory that Litten is unafraid to explore; of a hidden or suppressed, perhaps darker or troubled element of human nature. However, notably ‘The Animal Smile’ refers to a deep rooted desire or absolute need to connect with nature in order to bring peace and balance to the psyche and healing through connection with the wider world, extending beyond the human. However, even this clear and relatively simple notion or objective becomes emotionally ambiguous as the anthropomorphic suggestion of an ‘animal smile’, suggests potential of a discordant empathetic reading that may speak more of continued disconnect than of union. Yet this is not the point - without whitewashing a modicum of pessimism, the exuding hope radiating within this body of work is sited in the recognition of a real desire to entwine with something ‘other’ beyond ’self’, no matter how difficult the achievement may be, it is this ‘desire’ that offers a bridge to something fuller. Litten addresses such contradictions without giving much away when he says “I think the art in this show has lots of little narratives to interpret.” As ever, with Andrew Litten, it is not about clearing up the confusion, but learning to live with it. The wider message, I think one of love, becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

Please join us for the Preview event of two simultaneously opening exhibitions, Andrew Litten's 'The Human Shadow (The Animal Smile)', and Andy Harper's 'The Mandalas' on Friday 14th July, 6.30 - 8.30 pm.