At Kettle's Yard, Castle Street, Cambridge, until 15 June
David Rayson paints scenes of suburban housing estates, which sometimes have specific titles that link them to his birthplace, Wolverhampton, but could be almost anywhere in the UK, writes Andrew Mead. In this basic world of two-storey brick boxes with tiled, pitched roofs, architecture is conspicuous by its absence; as is landscape architecture, for the spaces among and around the houses are in no sense designed.
Rayson depicts these subjects with a photorealist clarity, inclusiveness and attention to detail. No doubt some editing or other manipulation has gone on, but the impulse of the viewer is to say 'yes, these places do look like this'.
It is how the Laing or Barratts' brochure translates into reality. Rayson is the artist in the role of mortician, embalming the everyday - but without recourse to cosmetics.
These paintings are an inventory of suburban imperfections: the banality of the initial concept, the non-existent maintenance - paving stones that have cracked or part-subsided, retaining water long after the rain has stopped - and residents'daily responses, in the form of graffiti and litter, which multiply before our eyes. So many things have just been thrown away; there is almost as much waste here as in Don DeLillo's Underworld, with crisp packets, lager cans and household appliances colonising the streets and verges. Meanwhile, the skies above are as blank as in a photo by the Bechers; and Rayson's work has something of their 'objectivity'.
Or it did until this last year. Of late he has simplified it radically. Now, in rapid, ink linedrawings, Rayson - still in the suburbs - selects just a few elements from a scene to create cartoon-like vignettes: two swans trailing parallel wakes in a canal, for instance.But these new works prove that less is not invariably more - perhaps, for Rayson, they are just an interlude.