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Jean Christensen at the Matisonn Burgin:Shoreditch Space, 30 Phipp St. London, 28 Nov – 8 Dec.

The Matisonn Burgin:Shoreditch Space is not for the tourist or walk-in trade. I only know that I have arrived at the right place by the house number. This is scrawled in marker on the gray painted surface of a windowless steel door. Confirmation comes from Yolande Burgin’s name neatly typed on a slip of paper and discretely displayed opposite a lighted plastic bell button. The gallery is hidden in a Shoreditch neighborhood of trendy restaurants with exotic continental names scattered among sleazy night clubs, shoddy bars and ethnic convenience stores. Into the mix add young galleries taking risks…among these the Matisonn Burgin.

The current exhibit is not for those seeking safe art to decorate the flat, nor for those seeking to demonstrate their acumen by following the hot trends. There is no attempt to piggy-back on the current glut of pornography based images, participatory art, installations, performance or video. Rather, the exhibit is for someone looking for thought-provoking art that defies current conventions.

Jean Christensen is a New Yorker currently living and working in France. Entering the cozy gallery, the viewer is faced by what appear to be a smattering of fauvist inspired, impasto oils comprising a mix of landscapes, portraits and pop social comment. On closer examination, the impressionist brushstrokes reveal themselves to be meticulously selected, trimmed and placed pieces of images from supermarket flyers and junk mail. A dominantly russet and orange landscape turns out to be composed of morsels cut from images of meat. The appearance of brush strokes is conveyed by the choice and arrangement of tiny cuttings and patterns in the found originals. This is a feat that could only be accomplished by a collagist with a sound knowledge of oil techniques.

There is a distinct nod to art brut, partly in the works’ obsessive attention to detail and partly in the image within an image consciousness shared by Adolf Wolfli , Edmond Monsiel or Inuit artists. The landscapes are evocative of French-Canadian naïve painters in their use of color, brush-work and formal compositional elements. Missing is more information on the puzzling and unexplained conceptual gap between the landscapes and more symbolic work

The gallery and the exhibit will be rewarding to those prepared to explore obscure corners and are not for the casual artistic bystander

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