Alessandro Raho bridges fashion and design with the giants of modern painting. Soho’s Alison Jacques Gallery is showing a selection of his works that have an unusual depth beneath their seemingly flat surfaces.
Painted from photographs but virtually avoiding the trend for photorealism, these works have a flatness that is very modern and akin to fashion illustration, yet also calls to mind the early work of Freud and Raho’s big influencer, Alex Katz.
In the small instances where he allows photorealism to slip in, it is always to highlight something manmade, keeping his faces and skin soft, while a modern logo or design feature will jump from the canvas. His subjects are the people he paints, as well as the signs of modern times, such as t-shirts boldly emblazoned with ellesse, Andy Warhol’s Monroe, Micky Mouse and Moschino.
Bahamian-born Raho graduated from Goldsmiths in the 90s and has a youthfulness to his work that is a successful distraction from the fact that he is a highly experienced painter. This energy captures an informal relationship between the subject and viewer, Raho often depicting his figures in pants and t shirts. In contrast, characters such as Bryan Ferry have an increased grandeur to them, slick and suave through natural posture even when paired back. The glamour of the celebrity is clear to see.
The meeting point between fashion, design and fine art is interesting, and there is a naivety that fits this painting style with 21st Century culture as a whole, rather than sitting as something aloof. As mentioned by Nicholas Cullinan, recently working with the artist to display a portrait of Judy Dench at the National Portrait Gallery, ‘Raho is truly a painter of modern life.’
Alessandro Raho runs until 4 July at Alison Jacques.