Kick the Bucket, The Innie, TV in Bed, Back of Horse Costume, Splittsville, Lift & Separate. These are some of the titles of American painter Amy Sillman’s latest works (2015–2018), on display in Landline at Camden Arts Centre, her first solo show in the U.K. Lift & Separate is my favourite title: the age-old catchphrase of the successful brassiere (!) and hallmark of the laconic but generous humour of Sillman’s work, and the ways in which it conjures partial and ambiguous bodies. We recognize a head here, a limb there, a neck, a face, genitals, a behind. Hands press to a face; a cartoonish figure slumps to the ground, leans forward, lies down.
It’s not clear what is happening in these images: the figures do not orchestrate a clear meaning; narrative is not the point. “We’re committed to something scrappy but good, earnest but smart, ironic and not cynical — a strange FORM!,” Sillman has written in an issue of OG, a slim zine that she publishes regularly. Her paintings are moving, they move. They cannot be contained. Through a riot of colour and many layers of paint, images lie somewhere between figuration and abstraction, shifting and morphing.