Thomas Allen: Contemporary Cave Painting

7 January - 21 February 2015
Charlotte Street, London

The Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery presents the first solo exhibition from CASS Prize winner and Threadneedle Prize finalist Thomas Allen. Inspired by the Surrealist technique of automatic drawing, the exhibition will be both active and interactive. Blacking out the gallery and re-inventing it as a ‘contemporary cave’, Allen will work daily by the light of a single lamp, as did our early predecessors. Over the course of a month, he will adorn the gallery space with ochre, charcoal, sanguine and graphite drawings in homage to the prehistoric cave art of Lascaux, Pech Merle and Font de Gaume, working on an organic surface of elephant dung paper hand-stained with tea.


To enrich his mural, the artist will walk around the streets of Fitzrovia and invite the public to contribute their own scribbles and images, which will inform his own etchings. With the free act of doodling unimpeded by any conscious inhibitions, the cave will be born out of immediate artistic impulses that flow directly from the unconscious. Allen hopes to undermine the concept of beginnings as much as to explore it. He has said:


“I’ve found the idea of beginnings rather dubious. Of course, superficially, it’s a useful concept and I wouldn’t advocate that we stop using it. Various strands of hominid have stretched out across the globe in complicated, overlapping paths and their creative expressions have developed in fits and starts. Some might like to think we’re at the pinnacle of evolution; others might be inclined to believe prehistoric humans were living in a sort of Arcadia. But maybe we’re just different, and there is no hierarchy.”


Over the duration of Allen’s painting, the gallery walls will come to reflect the collective unconscious of a community, a unique record of a society: a portrait of its mind.


The gallery will also host complimentary talks in association with the exhibition. Professor Jill Cook of the British Museum will discuss Ice Age Art, January 22 from 6.30 pm, and Dr Neil Matheson, Art Historian at the University of Westminster, will give a talk on Surrealism, January 29 from 6.30 pm. All are welcome.