Harriet Baker, Apollo , February 28, 2019

In blindness, Sargy Mann found new ways to picture the world


In a room with open windows, perched above the sea, three figures gather with the languor of late summer. A girl in a bikini kneels on an orange divan looking out, her elbows on the sill; a woman ties back her hair. The sun slants through the window, catching on ankles and casting strips of shadow on the dusky floor. The painting, Three Bathers (2012) by the British painter Sargy Mann (1937–2015), conjures the sensation of the day’s residual heat, the hour in the afternoon when bodies rotate into shrinking patches of sun.

In Mann’s large figurative works, the subject of an exhibition curated by Chantal Joffe at the Royal Drawing School, the room is always the same. Neither fully open nor fully closed, it invites the outside world in while maintaining the intimacy of a domestic interior. The window is a blue box opening on to sea and sky, offering an occasional glimpse of a scorched landscape, while inside, the space is peopled with figures slouching on a lilacky green couch, the rose-pink walls falling into corners of shadow. It is a room both real and imagined: the geometric parallel of Mann’s own sitting room overlaid with visions of places constructed from memory.

of 174