Hot Spell, 2024, oil and acrylic on canvas, 67h x 47w in

Fever, 2024, acrylic on canvas 72h x 96w in

Float, 2024, oil and acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 in.

Tide Ride, 2024, oil and acrylic on canvas, 46 x 36 in.

Red Hold, 2024, oil and acrylic on canvas, 48 x 42 in. 

Velvet Loop, 2024, oil and acrylic on canvas, 39 x 34 in. 

NATALIE WESTBROOK

Ripen

May 10 – June 8, 2024

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Freight + Volume is thrilled to present Ripen, an exhibition of recent paintings by Natalie Westbrook. Ripen will be on view at 39 Lispenard St. from May 10 through June 8, 2024. This is Westbrook's second solo exhibition with the gallery.

There’s a porousness to Natalie Westbrook’s work that speaks to how humans experience and interact with the natural world through the senses. If flesh is the reason oil painting was invented then acrylic and spray paint exists to describe the different interfaces we have with a thoroughly mediated and industrialized world.

On one level, Westbrook could be said to make paintings about paintings: she’s especially interested in the sense of touch and how it relates to the experience of making and viewing painting. On another level, her practice readily lends itself to describing, illustrating, and rendering textures in an illusive manner. This illusory quality of art is what makes it something which is at once always evolving and forever in the process of ripening, positing a static forever image when in truth a host of decisions, materials, and labored elements are congealed inside the facture of a work.

But the layered surfaces of Westbrook’s paintings unbind us from the throes of sheer illusion. Her paintings are bricolages of different techniques, each showcasing its own perspective. The gestalt or image they compose is anything but static. The viewer feels thrown around, gripped from within by paintings that simultaneously enact a promise, and then veer off into new directions entirely.

The title work, Ripen, for example, seems almost lascivious in theme; yet this theme is quite literally punctured by the illusion of porous holes, which tear into the realism of the scene depicted. In this painting, as in others on view, there’s no assurance that a certain mottled texture, or coloration, will remain strictly as a background feature, and not stridently enter into the foreground of a picture. Across Westbrook’s work, shifting dimensional planes lure viewers into a seemingly stable relationship with a painting, which then, moments later, expands to the breaking point, forcing us to re-examine what we thought we we’re looking at. 

It’s Westbrook’s deception of mouths which most aligns with the porousness cutting into her work. Decidedly, spray-paint was designed to recreate this one human feature. Lips are not so much for tasting as for gently outlining hidden depths almost none of us get to see. The real innards of the mouth, as suggested by one painting, is a beachy landscape viewed at twilight. In other words, the true inner nature of what we speak and express will always elude us, and is anybody’s guess.

Given the technical arsenal at Westbrook’s disposal, it’s no surprise that the paintings in Ripen depict fruits, faces, eyes, hands—recurring motifs that reflect our desire to see the static within a surface that seems to perpetually grow and treat us to novel vistas. Hence, the porousness of her work; the holes cut into and around recognizable figures and patterns suggest that our relationships within the world are both an image and a symbol, artificially constructed and real.