There's a strong element of intrigue in Reece Jones's multi-layered charcoal drawings, images of mountain and forest landscapes that carry a sinister aura of empty, night-time stillness. There are impenetrable black shadows but also rectangles of bright white light. These might be doors or portals through which to escape to or from another world. But they might just as easily function as blank screens on to which to project both our brightest hopes and darkest fears. The overall mood is one of visual and emotional uncertainty. It's an effect that Jones has evoked in past work with similar dramatic effect.
Previous works by the artist played more on references to the inhabited, enchanted forest, with precarious shacks perched high on mountainous terrain amid whirlwinds and striking lightning. There were also suggestions of potential alien invasion, through the inclusion of mysterious halos of light that hovered in the sky. But in these new works the underlying aesthetic is less sci-fi and fairytale romanticism and more monochrome minimalism. The strongest echoes are of Russian artist Kasimir Malevich's paintings "Black Square" (1915), and "White on White" (1918), but there's Donald Judd, Mark Rothko and Ad Reinhardt in there too.
This shift in subject to something more pared-down works better against the artist's particularly seductive drawing technique. Jones creates his images through a repeated process of drawing with charcoal, sanding down the image, reworking back into it and then re-sanding. The result is that the final surface not only contains high-contrast blacks and whites and subtle gradations of greys but also has a soft, degraded appearance, caused by the vertical sanding strokes. It also suggests electrical interference, perhaps hinting that the whole image, like our ability to grasp it fully, is in danger of dematerialising completely.
Helen Sumpter. Time Out - London. Thursday March 29 2012