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Tal R’s Sexshops explore roots of desire at Victoria Miro Gallery

PUBLISHED: 12:00 07 September 2017

Dirty Dicks by Tal R. Credit: Tal R

Dirty Dicks by Tal R. Credit: Tal R

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A new exhibition looks behind the facade of desire

Why do we like what we like?

This is the question Copenhagen-based artist Tal R explores in his upcoming Sexshops exhibition. In a bid to push the viewer to think about the roots of desire, the collection focuses on the exterior facades of sex clubs, massage parlours, strip clubs, adult theatres and other red light establishments from around the world.

The works, based on photographs, examine the largely unconscious actions of seduction and gratification. This means that the artist and the viewer are both shut out by closed doors and frosted windows, and can only but guess at the worlds beyond the surface of the canvas.

The paintings confirm that, whether in Antwerp, Prague, Tel Aviv or LA, these venues have remained largely untouched by corporate identity and exist in a parallel world of homespun graphic design. If you look closely you’ll be able to spot hints of the Parisian Belle Époque architecture in the façade of Dirty Dick, a former hostess bar in Paris that is now a cocktail bar. More often, though, it’s impossible to tell where the venues are located.

As the artist says: “The fascinating thing for me about Sexshops is the idea of something being withheld, and the link with how painting operates similarly in that it’s the surface that invites you in. There is a weird parallel between any façade and a painting: both of them are a flat surface but they promise a three dimensional experience.”

The compositions are stripped-back, and the artist’s ability to seduce and engage takes centre stage. Yet the exact nature of the experience, what turns us on as viewers and why, remains part of the essential mystery of painting.

“Most people don’t really choose what they find attractive, or what they reach out for,” Tal R says. “It is somehow constructed in their upbringing and unconsciousness and it’s the same with painting. In the end you reach out for what speaks to you.”

Some serious soul-searching is on the cards, and this is an excellent place to start.

Tal R: Sexshops is on at the Victoria Miro, 16 Wharf Road, N1 7RW. Opens September 20.

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