Kurt Lightner’s début solo show was bold and emphatic. His work deals with landscape and the human relationship to it – actual, remembered, or purely imagined – and demonstrates a determined desire to bring the outside in. Hinged structurally between painting and sculpture, the show’s centrepiece was a new, untitled, semi-translucent panel propped up at a steep angle by a large wooden buttress nailed to the wall. The structure overwhelmed the space; upright it would not even fit into the room. Lightner constructed the giant collage in situ, painting individual flowers, plants, rocks and sundry vegetation in watercolour ink on Mylar. Layered together – sometimes seamlessly, sometimes with heavy industrial staples – they compose a wild and densely occupied natural world. Sturdy tree trunks are depicted running through these independent yet interwoven parts – dark verticals that create a strong, woodsy framework. Within the forest, however, an incredibly diverse range of flora abides, from blue lollipop bushes to strange spongy rocks that more closely resemble something found in a subterranean garden and suggest that this picturesque landscape is more fantastic than factual.
Moments of chaotic verdant density are offset by patches of ‘open’ space, and Lightner convincingly renders the abruptly shifting character of his personal organic world. His materials are inherently translucent and slightly opalescent, and the panel’s empty areas convey the sparkly sensation of a sunny clearing in the woods, while the heavily layered passages suggest moments of dark, cool shade. Owing to the work’s considerable size, these kinds of difference are experienced as visceral sensations that shift as you walk the length of the work.