Ruination and the Maritime preside over Thom Gorst’s latest collection of work as he returns to Anise Gallery this March. The two themes are especially apposite today, as major exhibitions currently address them both. At Tate Britain ‘Ruin Lust’ is a transhistorical exhibition that covers our interest in ruin from its roots in the 18th Century up to contemporary artists who, like Thom, situate beauty in the remains of modernity: in the Edgelands that Farley and Symmons Roberts wrote about; in the derelict London that John Savage photographed, in the abandoned mental hospitals and factories that urban explorers photograph and, in the recently abandoned ships that he now paints.

 Condensing these themes alongside those from ‘Ship to Shore: Art and Lure of the Sea’ in Southampton and an exhibition on the writings and photography of Allan Sekula at Tate Britain, Thom’s canvases show, through their colour, how futile our attempts are to paint over the ravages of decay. Through their stillness they evoke the dynamism of deterioration in dangerous places.

 ‘Open and Shut’ highlights Thom’s fascination with opposites. “I try to resist the easy explanations that my students so often want.  It seems to me that, alongside every idea that has shaped culture, there is also its apparent opposite… Nothing is pure; nothing is easy; nothing is binary.  It’s both-and, not either-or: or maybe I prefer neither-but.”

 His work reflects these complexities; “I need to paint representations of distressed and derelict metal on clean, primed canvas.  I need to encapsulate what is rough and abrasive with varnish, which halts the processes of decay.  I need to work with colours that are alien to my subject: fizzy lemon or candy pink for a fo’c’sle chequerplate; or duvet-green for a sheet of unspeakably mutilated ship-side.”

 Leaving the real scenes of dereliction from his earlier work behind, Thom instead imagines more awful sites of tragedy and dissolution in this new body of work. A metallic surface, the action of corrosion upon it – a harsh place captured and varnished. Here, the artist is the only witness to the tragic past these ships have encountered.