ANNE CARNEY RAINES | PLEASURE ZONES
Anne Carney Raines
9 March - 1 April 2022
Wilder Gallery introduces Pleasure Zones, a solo presentation by painter Anne Carney Raines. Drawing on her background as a scenic painter, Raines constructs complex environments that expose the artifice of painting through the visual language of theatre and set design. Her paintings investigate the relationship between interior and exterior spaces; mountains, gardens, and trees give way to each other in a series of painted panels, curtains, and openings, evoking collective memories of landscapes.
Raines’ latest body of work is inspired by a recent visit to Las Vegas and the architecture of casinos, designed as mazes to keep consumers inside with a sense of limitless time and space. Las Vegas is a place of replications and caricature-like copies, from the first-floor canals of ‘Venice’ to the cutesy cobbled streets of ‘Paris’, all temperature-controlled and illuminated by unchanging levels of artificial light. Raines explores this notion of fictionalised space to evoke simultaneous feelings of entrapment and seduction.
The exhibition’s title is taken from Learning From Las Vegas, the 1972 book by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour that was seminal in the development of postmodernist architectural principles. The authors designate places such as Las Vegas, Disneyland, shopping malls, and botanical gardens as “pleasure zones”: “essential to the imagery of pleasure-zone architecture are lightness, the quality of being an oasis in a perhaps hostile context, heightened symbolism, and the ability to engulf the visitor in a new role.” Raines is particularly interested in the image of the oasis as a cultivated or constructed zone offering a form of escape.
Many of the works in the show include images of landscapes, from gardens and arable fields to forests and mountainsides. Raines draws attention to the illusion of “nature” and the mediated relationship we have with the more-than-human world. Many of us consume representations of landscapes more frequently than we encounter real ones; we live among iterations and artificial versions of ecosystems, pleasure zones tidily simulating our favourite elements of the outdoor environment.
Topiary mazes appear as repeated motifs throughout the show. In topiary gardening, nature is carefully controlled; sculpted trees are used to hide and reveal landscape vistas, manipulating how visitors move around a space. They play a similar role within the paintings, repeatedly baffling and reorientating the viewer’s eye. Raines’ mazes feel both dreamlike and nightmarish, evoking the contradictory fear and fantasy of getting lost.
Raines’ oeuvre is firmly situated within its art historical context, speaking particularly to the tradition of landscape painting in which images of “nature” are constructed according to aesthetic rules with architectural precision. She also draws extensively on trompe l’oeil, a type of painting situated in the grey zone between the so-called fine and decorative arts. With an interest in the qualities of painting as a medium, Raines repeatedly plays with the artificiality and two-dimensionality of the picture plane. She creates layers of paintings within paintings, revelling in the technical process of representing a flat painted surface within another flat painted surface, breaking the fourth wall through her meta-theatrical illusions and inviting the viewer to get lost within her fictional worlds.
By Anna Souter
Anne Carney Raines (b.1990) is a painter from Nashville, Tennessee currently living in London, UK. She received her painting MA in 2021 at the Royal College of Art in London and is a twotime recipient of the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant. She has a background in scenic painting and fabrication which has had a major impact on her artwork as she deals with topics around theatre, transitional space, and collective memory. She has her BFA in painting from Indiana University, Bloomington. Recent exhibitions include London Grads Now at Saatchi Gallery, New Contemporaries 2021 at Firstsite Gallery, and New Contemporaries 2020 at South London Gallery.