So goes the ancient rule for mariners as they set off on expeditions. It is this cautionary wisdom that provoked the ominous red skies Gig Depio uses in some of the works that make up this show. 'Red sky at night, painter’s delight' would be just as apposite... The Las Vegas-based painter has produced a body of work sensitive to the locale of the gallery space, and to his own identity. There are links with the Philippines (Depio's country of birth) and the history of Scarborough as a ship-building town, via the British Invasion of Manila (1762) which acts as the inspiration for these works.
Do we use the term 'history painting' anymore? If we do, we think of Goya, Delacroix, the Mexican Muralists: Riviera, Siqueros – epic paintings telling important stories. If such a term, and indeed, such an approach to painting is less prevalent in our time, perhaps it is something to do with a change in our relationship with history. We are in a maelstrom of histories. Credit, then, to Depio's seemingly anachronistic approach.
Careful observers will, however, notice that the artist is not averse to a plot twist. Depio's interest in cinema reflects the painter as an auteur figure. Even before sketching, his process is often instigated by having a film or image in mind. In this case, Stanley Kubrick's film Barry Lyndon (1976) is 're-written'. Brush strokes in the works are like direction; executed directly to construct the actants, sharp and defined like a woodcut. This strong graphic element in the work, which is refreshingly out of step with a lot of contemporary painting, belies an interest in comic books and graphic novels (which are also filmic). Often, if painting is suggested to be 'illustrative' it is regarded as a criticism – as if the painter is in denial of the substance of paint. But Depio's approach manages to be both painterly and illustrative – he is 'interested in the dynamics of how style creates tension in the materials artists work with'. It is precisely this tension that invigorates these works. Ship sails are scored with crisscrosses, feathery billows of cloud flood the red skies, and a female figure on horseback (Gabriella Silang – wife of executed rebel Diego Silang) is poised as she charges, sword aloft pointing towards the bigger picture.