5 April 2008 2:35 PM
Beauty and pain should not traipse down the avenue hand in hand but yet they do, the one shiny and pretty, the other pockmarked and bruised. Alison Oakes’s meticulously painted surfaces abstract the place where they come together, a place both familiar and ignored, a place locatable as the body, inside and out. If her veined, blemished oil paintings resemble anything it is human skin, but they recall even more that which pulses and groans under its surface, whether that surface be caked with make-up, covered by bandages, or bared to the light. Concave tondi conflate portraits with powder compacts, while irregular painted porcelains recall extravagant acrylic nails, but ones that reveal the flawed rather than the airbrushed body. Perhaps most unsettling of all are those moments where the battered human surface slips into the decorative, painterly one, as varicose veins and pustular rashes become so much marbling and moody brushwork.