Art Review: Francis West – Voyages @ Piper Gallery

There are so many galleries in Mayfair that it’s hard to find a niche, but the Piper gallery’s remit isn’t something we’ve come across before. It only displays living artists who have produced works for over 40 years. This narrows the field of potential artists, but the upshot is that if an artist has been creating artworks for so long then they must have a loyal following and have proven to be commercially successful.

Francis West is an artist whose work clearly draws inspiration from the likes of Bacon and Picasso, and this is by no means a bad thing. The frenzied energy and use of primitivist and surreal motifs in his work gives them an otherworldly feel. But the backdrops are rooted in familiarity, from coastal through to desert works.

Though his pieces appear to be varied, the style of brushwork and recurring themes remain in all of them. West is able to make slight changes to the colour palette and completely transform the mood of a painting. By shifting from light to dark, tumultuous waves become a sun soaked beach, but the painting seems lighter even though the characters retain their animalistic heads and missing limbs. Despite all of the colours and sweeping brushstrokes, the lack of detail in the works prevents them from appearing cluttered and without focus.

This is only the Piper Gallery’s second show and it’s brought to light a talented and emotive artist who, although he’s been exhibiting since the ’60s, has largely flown under the mainstream radar.

Francis West – Voyages is on at The Piper Gallery, 18 Newman St, W1T 1PE until 5 October. Entrance is free.

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