Eve Ackroyd: Fifth Floor Apartment
Turn Gallery Parlour Room
March 12 through April 23, 2022
By KIRSTEN CAVE, March 2022
With a Matisse-like economy of line, a steady and minimal approach to form and color, and a keen grasp of composition, Eve Ackroyd (b. 1984, UK) explores how it felt to live in New York City through the works in her first New York solo exhibition Fifth Floor Apartment at Turn Gallery in their Parlour Room. The nine paintings on view, created during and after living in a Brooklyn apartment, explore the passage of time in spaces with which many city-dwellers are likely familiar: multi-story apartment buildings, a sidewalk on which a figure walks a dog, and a small bed or bathtub.
The figures in these paintings are often overshadowed by or becoming one with their environments. In one of the strongest works in the show Ackroyd’s 2020 Corner, a figure is poised in front of a divided plane–left mustard yellow, right dusty blue. With her mouth mildly downturned, her eyes cast straight ahead, and her arms crossed, she appears to be ambivalent and possibly waiting. Although her left shoulder features a bright white highlight and her shadow is cast upon the blue side—implying that the light source emanates from the left of the figure—a patch of blue in the background bleeds through the surface of the figure. As the figure blends into her surroundings, boundaries between the individual and her environment become blurred.
These boundaries are rendered further indistinct between the artist and those to whom she lived in close proximity. In her 2022 painting Couple in the next apartment, Ackroyd considers a likely habit of the neighboring pair: spooning in their bed. Yet, the limits of her imagination may be discerned by the ambiguity of the figures’ positions. Is the blue figure’s arm above or below the striped covers? The lines of their arm are discontinued at the edge of the covers, and as their forearm crosses the first three stripes, it remains transparent. However, gray and slate blue shadows sculpt their wrist and hand and hide the stripe below their palm, causing it to appear to re-emerge from under the covers. Here, the artist balances the intimacy of a couple in bed with the impersonality of an amorphous gesture.
One of the only two paintings portraying a scene outdoors, her 2020 Willoughby Street prominently features apartment buildings, an unlit street lamp, and bare trees. Eclipsed by the seemingly lifeless structures, a stray black cat is perched in a dark teal doorway in the lower right register of the canvas, serving as a playful reminder to pay attention to transient small wonders or as a symbolic warning, contingent on a viewer’s beliefs.
The objects within Ackroyd’s paintings often seem to glow or vibrate as her forms are frequently echoed in the background by varying tones of color and curving brushstrokes. The energy this imparts in the paintings reveals a tension with her otherwise minimal compositions. Her 2020 painting Walk, for instance, portrays a lone figure walking her dog beneath an object that oscillates between a gray cloud or the suggestion of a tree, or perhaps both. What might be open space is instead filled with textured brushstrokes, imitating the edges of the figure, the dog, and the bulbous object floating above them. In other cases, Ackroyd’s forms seem to glow in paintings like her 2022 Tuesday Flowers. Although the vase holds only three sparse flowers, a light halo behind the nebulous flora allows them to hold the space and suggests their importance.
In the largest work of the show, New Yorker, a lone figure lounges reading an indeterminate copy of the New Yorker magazine, prompting the question, what does it mean to be a New Yorker? Tensile charges arise as boundaries between the self and the other or outside are muddled in this place where vast distance exists between those in close vicinage, and in any place where each new day is marked by quotidian practices. To Ackroyd, the answer seems to be marking time nonlinearly by repetitive, transitory routines and seeking meaning in reminders of how small, yet interconnected, we are in this towering city. WM
Kirsten Cave is a writer and Gallery Associate at Alexander Berggruen, NY. She holds a master's degree in Art Market Studies from the Fashion Institute of Technology. Her writing has been published in Degree Critical and Arte Fuse.view all articles from this author