Saturday, June 12, 2021


Shani Rhys James' latest exhibition Hunan-Ynysu: Self-Island opened on Wednesday this week at the Connaught Brown Gallery at 2 Albemarle Street, London W1S 4HD. I was there.

If you could enter - literally, physically enter - a space made of thick, gleaming oil colours passionately coaxed with brush and palette knife into recognisable forms and feelings, then you would experience something of the effect Shani’s paintings have on a viewer, at least this viewer. I deeply identify with her work precisely because of its bold, unapologetic self-exposure: all cards on the table, yes, but hidden within a veil, a mask of paint. That we were wearing Covid-necessary masks, limiting verbal communication, made the experience all the more metaphoric and relevant. Shani’s explosive flowers are darkness-dispelling incantations but it is the unsentimental, fully admitted darkness and sadness of the human figures which attracts and envelops me.

As a lifelong and long-lived artist I can’t claim objectivity about other artists’ work, past or present. Some intangible personal rhythm or note in the work of an individual artist or period of art has to resonate with me. Shani’s work, which I saw for the first time at this gallery two years ago, most definitely has the Aha! effect and it’s a great bonus that we have become friends as well.

If you are in London don’t miss this stunning exhibition. There’s an excellent, beautifully illustrated catalogue available from the gallery.

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