Something about Mike Silva’s paintings make me feel - “that’s London”. I promise I would have said the same even if this show had been called anything else. I’ll try to explain why.
Kitchen Window, pictured below, is representative of Silva’s scenes, which are worked up from photos he has taken over the years, many from his old flatsharing days. There’s something about the brownish light, filtering in from the impractical curtain covering, wanly suspended from a plastic tube across the window, giving a little privacy from the neighbours across the way, that makes me think: we’re in London.
It’s a quiet, overcast weekday in late autumn (in my head). I can also tell we’re in the city from me and the artist call home by Silva’s architectural cues. There’s something about the meanness of those windows opposite, the banding of the bricks, that signals London-ness.
Someone in the flat has been a bit remiss about the washing up, with a couple of plates on the side. The cap of the washing up liquid bottle hasn’t been put back on. The washcloth is crinkled, drying in place. Everything man-made, except a small houseplant, almost in silhouette, straining towards the glass.
Elsewhere in the show, there are some other slightly worn interior scenes. Light slants over some suspended shelves, picking out a bottle of hand sanitiser: an unusual contemporary touch. There’s an untidy living room, with wonky wooden floorboards. Cheap door handles and locks. Signifiers of transience, nothing built to last. How long will that flimsy kitchen window covering stay up for?
Silva’s so evocative in these scenes. Or maybe suggestive is a better word: implying, rather than saying out loud. There are some fine portraits of lounging, man spreading men in the show too. But the interiors are still staying with me, days later.
“The photographic image is rooted in the time and place that it was taken – it is fixed to that specific moment,” Silva has said. “Whereas a painting can appear to always seem in the present, because it’s been divorced from the exact point in time it originally refers to.” A painting of a photo renders the scene timeless. And the scene is… London!
Mike Silva: London Portraits, Interiors and Still Lives is at The Approach (London). May 20 - August 01 2020