Alfie Caine: What Lies Beyond
13/11/2021 - 18/12/2021
Opening: Friday, November 12th, 6-9pm
UNION Gallery is pleased to present Alfie Caine’s What Lies Beyond, curated by William Gustafsson
What Lies Beyond brings to the fore the state of liminality explored in Caine’s latest body of work. Doors left temptingly ajar and far-off houses half obscured by haze entice the viewer into Caine’s worlds, where they are encouraged equally yet contrastingly to explore his meticulously detailed interior spaces while dreaming up what views and places exist in the landscapes beyond the canvas. The artist revels in these contrasts that lie deceptively beneath the works’ calm surfaces, but it is by balancing the inner oppositions that creates their atmosphere of unstilted serenity: meditative yet anticipatory.
Caine creates visual and stylistic contrasts; beyond the linear confides of his buildings lie fantastical soft-edged and untamed nature. Anachronistically, the use of architecture to divide composition draws on Caine’s love of Early Renaissance painting while the focus on entrances and interior scenes echoes works of the Dutch Golden Age. The art historical references are at odds with the decidedly contemporary arbitrary colours and non-fine art paints used to describe them. The narrative within the scenes is also incongruous; the wind rustles through leaves yet the surface of the river remains perfectly unbroken in Have You Seen the River? It’s Bright Yellow!, while in a number of works lights are left on, curtains askew, and smoke can be seen unfurling from chimneys, all hinting at inhabitants that are rarely to be seen in the works.
The sudden flight of these people makes the narrative of the scenes ominous and stilted, yet Caine asserts an undeniably tangible atmosphere of calm; transforming the spaces from empty and void, to spaces permeated with openness, room to breathe and the sense that something is just out of reach.
The feeling of openness in the works is translated from Caine’s daily experience: cycling to and from his studio, he travels along the vast expanse of river in Rye, from which he catches glimpses through windows and doors into people’s homes. The areas surrounding Rye form the basis of Caine’s larger works. Following his relocation from London, Caine particularly noticed the different levels present in the landscape: ‘It reveals so much, flat land meets hillside and from their peaks you see panoramic views of the changing skies, the horizon and waterways and from the flat plains below you can look up at the hills and their layers of houses’. The incorporation of these topographical features and details from existing houses in Rye, as well as the design objects Caine keeps in his house and his studio, merged with the dreamed-up elements, create the feeling of familiarity tinged with escapism in the works, as the real and the imagined seamlessly collide within the artist’s idealised worlds.
Caine’s worlds operate at all levels; in the architecture and the expanses of fantasised countryside beyond their windows, down to the minutiae of cutlery, floor tiles and freshly picked wildflowers. These details draw the viewer closer in as we are offered places to sit, to stand, to rest and observe these objects and viewpoints from, as we take the place of the missing inhabitants. However, Caine always leaves a little concealed within his world to maintain the feeling of anticipation and curiosity that drives his painting; we, like Caine, are left to wonder and imagine what might exist within those spaces he has left for us.
- Text by Anna Monks