Johnny Izatt-Lowry: and the smoke from a cigarette

20 April - 19 May 2023

"'And it was indeed a hawthorn, but one whose blossom was pink, and lovelier even than the white. It, too, was in holiday attire…but it was attired even more richly than the rest, for the flowers which clung to its branches, one above another, so thickly as to leave no part of the tree undecorated, like the tassels wreathed about the crook of a rococo shepherdess, were every one of them “in colour”…’

Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way, In Search of Lost Time (1)


Proust is associated with the concept of involuntary memory triggered by ordinary objects or tastes - most famously a Madeleine cake dipped in tea - which unexpectedly whirl his narrator out of the present and into the past. But an often neglected aspect of Proust is his meticulous attention to material detail. Descriptions of a single subject are apt to run to several pages. The above quote, a fragment of a lengthy passage on hawthorns, gives a sense of this obsessive tendency to home in on quotidian things in a way that defamiliarises them. Proust teaches us to look anew, to approach the everyday with all our senses and associations.[2] Johnny Izatt-Lowry does something similar in his intriguing paintings, which are not in fact made with oil or acrylic pigment but coloured pencil on crepe.


These works are largely still lifes, portraying ordinary objects like shoes, flowers, jeans, pencils, cigarettes and reproductions of artworks. Izatt-Lowry scours the internet for stock photographs of these things, which he downloads, edits in Photoshop, then draws and finally paints from memory. There is an instant recognisability on seeing his generic images, a sense of comfort: “ah yes, I know where I am with this”. But do we? The longer one spends with his paintings, the more questions they generate. The artist conceives of his series of works as chapters in an evolving, connected opus...”


An extract from the commissioned text by Elizabeth Fullerton