Rachel Howard, Repetition is Truth - Via Dolorosa | Newport Street Gallery

When making this series of works, based on the 14 stations of the cross, the artist first allowed gloss paint to separate. Then, she poured the pigment onto large canvases from above. Then, she added the laminate to the canvas. This has led to the works’ shiny surface of vertical stripes and drips. Their reflectiveness make them hard to photograph, if not to look at. The series is on show currently at the Newport Street Gallery.


The one repeated motif, breaking up the vertical stripes, is a black box. The origins of this box are made clear in ‘Study’ (2005), which opens the show. It’s based on one of the last decade’s most iconic photos of the tortured, hooded Iraqi prisoner, in US army hands at Abu Ghraib prison. And it’s still shocking, even if the global political conversation has moved on from the Iraq war. That initial ‘shock and awe’ assault on Baghdad was 15 years ago - unbelievably.

Howard’s black box, mysterious and shadowy, appears in various states of disintegration across her 14 canvases. That the prisoner was standing in a cruciform position, arms outstretched, hadn’t even occurred to me until now, a decade and a half on. ‘Via Dolorosa’ means “way of pain”.

Rachel Howard, Repetition is Truth - Via Dolorosa is at Newport Street Gallery (London). 21 February - 28 May 2018.