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PJ Riley’s first solo show is a portal

unning from 24 – 30 April, I’m Always Better when I’m Next to You is a showcase of PJ Riley’s most vibrant and meaningful artworks. In them, he creates a world of beauty and introspection by fusing abstract expressionism with narrative storytelling. Woven together with soulful reflections on the human condition, these sometimes bold, sometimes melancholic paintings span the entire spectrum of emotions.

Inspired by the vibrancy of Matisse and the spontaneity of Jackson Pollock, PJ Riley’s paintings also reference the distortions of Picasso and the textured brush marks of van Gogh. On top of this, he also fuses his paintings with the emotive storytelling of a Goya.

“This blend of characteristics has paved the way for reshaping the dialogue around abstract art, as seen in Riley’s art, which is deeply personal and explores the energy that links us and the possibility of a higher power,” the gallery explains.

Acting as a “portal into a world of emotional intensity and introspection”, these paintings also brush up against themes of passion and contemplation. “Through his masterful use of colour, form, and composition, Riley creates a visual symphony that speaks directly to the heart, transcending language and culture.”

This can be seen in the fiery passion of I’m Always Better Next to You and the contemplative depths of You Carry the World. In these paintings, Riley invites viewers on a journey of self-discovery by delving into themes of companionship, regret and resilience.

“PJ Riley’s method of layering adds further depth and complexity to his artworks, which are then peeled back for viewers to discover the hidden narratives within,” the gallery reveals.

“Each brushstroke reveals passages of time and the layers of memory that shape our lives, creating an engaging dialogue between the artwork and the viewer. The exhibition is a testament to Riley’s status as a visionary storyteller whose canvas serves as a mirror to the complexities of contemporary life.

“Through his art, he challenges viewers to confront their own emotions, experiences, and perceptions, inviting them to find meaning and connection in the midst of chaos and uncertainty.”

Chaos and uncertainty are fitting themes for PJ Riley, whose life journey has taken some unexpected turns. Having previously worked in industrial design, he went on to create innovative products, such as a plastic spoon for Haagen Dazs and a keyring for Vivienne Westwood, before moving into painting.

A move to the Caribbean in 2014 shifted his focus in this direction though, where he drew inspiration from the Welsh Hills and the light and colour of the area. He has since created a new strand of modern art with a Caribbean twist, one that reflects his resilience and a desire to make being alive “mean something.”

“It is an exciting challenge to bring together this poignant selection of works, to make sense of an organised chaos, to revaluate the artwork’s – and my own narrative(s) – in doing so,” says PJ Riley.

“My work very much reflects on my turbulent past while acknowledging the beauty in the present, and gift of the future. It is this process that aids the storytelling, the varied narratives, and all the complexities of what makes us human. I want my art to inspire others to make every day count and to help quieten the voices of self-criticism.”

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