Will Fice
Waiting Room
January 16 - March 31, 2021

Essay By Duncan Mosley
The gallery is extremely gratful to Duncan (Will's former tutor) for his contribution.

An unknown figure lays flat on his back, an arm draped over his face. Fashion conscious boys in capes check their phones whilst three young men nonchalantly patrol the streets. Witness to these scenes is the 21-year-old painter from Redhill Surrey, Will Fice. In his first exhibition since graduating from Leeds Arts University in 2020, Fice has created a new body of work that finds fascination in the codes of contemporary peer group interactions through the technologies of a new modernity and the histories of painting.

Fice’s painterly image is led by a handheld lens. The ubiquitous smartphone camera that has collected, connected and distributed each incidental and performed activity of the early decades of the 21st Century. What we begin to see in Fice’s subjects is an examination of the notion of young manhood through the scaffold of painting and an exploration these ideas through the dual lenses of gender and class. Often bored or surly, cool or swaggering, these young men also become representative of a form of what Fice sees as working-class masculinity. A group that he feels is being pushed further into the margins of the contemporary sociological discourse. The isolated space that late adolescents occupy as they transcend from childhood into adulthood often devoid of economic independence or clear career prospects. A troubling period for any parent of a six-foot child. A waiting game, a hope for the best but a fear for the worst. We have been led to believe that these aspects of the unformed not - quite - man are toxic, aggressive, arrogant. A presumed product of Calpol and Ritalin, dismissed as over – stimulated and under – educated. Fice’s paintings therefore, become an interesting location of existence, a coming of age story for Generation Z as he brings this marginalised image of vaunting youth in direct confrontation with the cultural high tide of the art world.

The image is sourced through Fice’s own social media circle. Photographs created and distributed by the depicted subjects of his enquiry. By going directly to the protagonists’ own imagery, Fice is commenting upon what these young men themselves have given visual priority to. Of how they see their self - image and what they assume they are. Like most content uploaded and shared on social media, the images Fice selects reveal something other than just their preference for merely showing an existence in the world. He intuitively understands that the function of a social media image is one where the presentation of an image of activity now operates as a mechanism and substitution for any opportunity of real experience. Where Fice succeeds with these paintings is in the selection of the images he works from. He has an acute sense of time, a way of identifying and isolating, of finding and framing this tedium. His figures, stand and sit, look and loiter. His paintings therefore also become a meditation on the surplus nature of the digital image. In these small works, we can see how the paint acts as an interruption of the image. Of where the rescue of a single photograph has become the basis for where the action of painting simultaneously functions as a device for feeling something for the image.

Fice’s brushwork is loose, the painterly gestures often layered and fluid, are direct in their execution. The colour develops into a vibrant lexicon of hues, the attempted injection of emotional contact through the medium of paint for an otherwise fleeting social media moment. There is a balance between the work’s interior subject and exterior painterly object. The slippage between the models of a photographic and painted image opens up the key uncertainties that Fice is examining here. What we see is equal to what we don’t see. In the painting ‘Playground’ he shows us an incomplete scene of three young males sat in a place they should have left a long time ago. It’s an unspecified location and a painting that openly reveals it is an image in the process of construction. A sort of becoming and in an emergent sense, perhaps, it is here we see the boy waiting for the man.

There is a recollection of modernity in Fice’s work. An observation of the perpetual everyday emptied time these young men have to endure. The painting ‘Waiting Room’ however, is not a scene of Baudelairian ennui. It is, I would argue, a glimpse into the profound boredom of Millennial Britons, where even the most stagnant lived moments have been submitted to the banalities of the smartphone lens, for the production and distribution of an image in exchange for the currency of likes and comments. It is within this space of emotional flatness that Fice is reminding us of the affective value of painting. In this collection of new works, he has dislocated a series of snapshots from the network and re – enchanted an experience for these young men within the territories of the canvas and through the slowness of paint. By shifting our perspective on an otherwise ordinary and transitory photographic record of this mundanity he is now presenting us with something altered, something of richness and purpose. What we now see is a set of curious figures, paused in paint awake yet unaware. As if in waiting for an indeterminate future from which they seem forever severed.

Duncan Mosley
Subject Leader
BA (Hons) Fine Art, Leeds Arts University.

Waiting Room
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