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Strange Days Presents...

David Bance

'The Turning Worm'

17th- 26th May 2024 Fridays-Sundays 12-5pm

Opening reception: 16th May 6pm-9pm

The Turning Worm is a journey through an imaginal edgeland. Informed by the post-industrial landscape and marshlands that flank the banks of the River Lea in North East London, where Bance lives and works, and the visual vernaculars of suburban life in the coastal towns of the South East of England, where he grew up.


Primary to the artist's work is the feedback between traditionally normative cultural values and more esoteric or subversive forms that emerge from personal and social contexts outside of established art historical narratives. A sub-zeitgeist of obscure musical genres, fantasy art, horror cinema and folklore.


The artist builds layers of paint onto heavily worked grounds, often sanding back or scratching through to reveal multiple stages of underpainting. Layered within, or pasted on top, are a mesh of xeroxed photographic images. Many, taken by the artist during walks through the Lea Valley, show scrubland, hogweeds, canals carpeted by pennywort, electricity pylons and barbed wire fences. Other found images are drawn from a variety of sources: a Toby Jug from the Henry Willett's Collection of Popular Pottery, a concrete sculpture of an ammonite fossil in the centre of a roundabout, illustrations from counter-cultural magazines, and film stills.


The work combines these sources with a repertoire of recognisable abstract gestures. In some paintings, form and representation are almost completely lost under impasto paint. Rather than a turn towards pure abstraction, representation becomes obscured or overgrown. As if covered by weeds, or sunk in an alluvial mire. 


Mirroring the coiling form of the ammonite, the whorls of a snail’s shell and the looping castings of the lugworm, the work deploys a spiral logic. Drilling downwards like an archaeological investigation. Breaking through the crumbling surface into deep veins of memory and mythology. Simultaneously ascending, corkscrewing towards the sky like the giant shell of the dinocochlea or Tatlin’s unbuilt tower, attempting to transcend the anonymity of suburban space, into zones of the fantastical. 


In The Turning Worm, Bance transforms the topography of the urban hinterland into a site of cultural, political and mythic importance. Unloved public sculptures and abandoned municipal buildings become poised surrealist objects, or sites of arcane worship. Concrete underpasses, and fetid canals, shopping trollied and overgrown, are transformed into a home to fair folk, goodfellows and boggarts. This is a thin place. 




The Turning Worm is the first in a series of exhibitions under the banner Strange Days looking at artists who are responding to the complex, strange, and unsettling experience of contemporary life. 


The program aims to delve into the weird, subterranean landscape of art made in the shadows, and dank rescesses of the city and beyond. Culture formed under the messy, relentless shadow of austerity and apocalyptic tales of climate disaster. 


Bad Moon


oil, acrylic, distemper, collage on linen

27.6m x 35.8cm (unframed)


Things That Were and Shall Be Again


oil, acrylic, distemper, watercolour, graphite, shellac, collage on polyester

61m x 61cm (unframed)

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