Alastair Mackinven is nothing if not a colorist. In the British artist’s most recent exhibition at Reena Spaulings, violets, teals, reds, and ceruleans populate the canvases of his eight new paintings, so pure as if to have been applied directly from the pigment. The effect is almost Technicolor in its vividness, like the sheen of spilled oil.
Mackinven’s dreamlike subjects are lit by the strange light of dawn or dusk, and sometimes accompanied by toppled heads. In one painting, a figure, half man, half beast, bends over behind an ashen-faced woman, who emerges from a body of water dappled with apocalypse-red strokes. A cigarette lighter in one canvas is a jarring intrusion, a tie to an ordinary world that somehow renders the painting all the stranger. In yet another work, an Ophelia-like figure sleeps beneath a surface strewn with flowers. The background is illuminated by a fierce but diminishing light, while the foreground is rendered in demure pastel blue, as if the sun has already passed us over, soon to be snuffed out entirely.
Alastair Mackinven, Untitled, 2020. Iron powder and oil on canvas, 47 1/4 x 55 inches. Courtesy of Reena Spaulings Fine Art.