Regarding Painting

Diana Copperwhite / Sarah Dwyer / Sinéad Ní Mhaonaigh / Paul Nugent / Axel Sanson / Esther Teichmann

Written by Lara on . Posted in Exhibitions

Regarding Painting
1 – 24 July 2010
Is it an imprimatur of sorts for Painting when the Good Doctor examines a canvas in detail, appeals to Amy Pond to look closely, finds the tortured creature in the window of the provençal church painted by Van Gogh, and goes back in time to erase the Painter’s demon?If we regard the creation of the television drama as an information system that de-codes the world we live in – and many theorists do – then we can realistically include the ruminations on the multi-planar nature of Time by Dr. Who as relevant to the understanding of the planes on which we observe the world, and within the surface that the Painter works on and he/she works on it.To put this in context, a recent episode of the TV serial Dr. Who concerned a demon in a Van Gogh painting in exhibition, recognised by the time-travelling Doctor, who realises the demon itself is also trapped in a time warp and needs to be released. This undoubtedly gives Vincent temporary respite and coincidentally saves mankind from the distressed and lost demon from another universe. In travelling back to the time of the Painter, the artist himself is proposed as medium, as super-sensitive, as someone who sees things in multiple spheres, who understands that colour is not just what we see but is often what we feel, and that surfaces are not simply what you see in front, but have many different views. These ideas are those that Picasso subsequently pushed beyond its limits – as indeed the Doctor also refers to – and which allow us to envisage the Contemporary World where memory, experience and event can co-exist with the future, where we can articulate different points of view and plane.It is also the stuff of the Multiverse, as against the Universe, which was discussed in the Royal Institution in London (2008), and contemplates the eye seeing different planes contemporaneously. It is significant that in popular culture in 21st century, that painting is still regarded as a place to see things differently and see different things – as they are, as they might be, and with potential to influence. Just as the canvas of the The Matrix postulates the breakdown of surface and suggest that decomposition and re-composition can arrive at a different way of seeing, at a greater understanding of surface and depth, with a strong dependence on the tool and how it is used: in the Matrix, the tool is film and special effects and in painting, oil paint and its tactile manipulation. This group exhibition bears scrutiny with this in mind.
These painters have different ways of seeing. When considering this exhibition, these are Artists who continue what Artists do, creating the understanding of who painters are by the very process of what they do.Paul Nugent moves measuredly through symbolisms and social codes, obscuring and revealing, using techniques that draw on exposure and shrouds of layers to create complex and laden distances between the viewer and the work. Nugent uses positive/negative to prolong the unfolding of the image and within that, the potential to change the outcome of the moment is postulated. The subject floats between focus and unseeing, being the stuff of history and of memory, challenging the possibility of inhabiting that history. The idea of a moving sculptural quality to the objects he paints gives an understanding of an unfixed place or observed surface. The viewer may have a feeling of re-inhabiting a place they thought they knew, with religious or family symbolism which should comfort but which obscures and renders doubtful. Nugent unsettles memory and gives the viewer the possibility of its being changed, an unfixed point which ‘unfixes’ the whole matrix.Esther Teichmann draws on the history of the work of art against the backdrop of the emerging photograph – using a large format bellows camera, her work is classical and yet because of her use of this method now, the works seem subversive, nostalgic and fantasy driven – the hand tinted nature of the colours Teichmann uses and the allegorical nature of her images makes the painterliness of her work touching, the use of collage infusing the work with fragility and movement, with long exposure giving an apparent chance to intervene – the inclusion of this work in the painter’s corner for this exhibition shows time honoured respect for the framed space, with incalculable distance and connectivity between planes of activity.Diana Copperwhite has an extraordinary command of the surface of canvas: her application makes you feel the canvas rises up to the paint, which is transcending the surface, aspiring to the ephemeral, to actively remembering rather than revisiting. While experience of her work oscillates between a fixed point and a blurring, out-of-focus ill-defined edge, being cradled in the medium of paint is the reassurance that draws the eye and brain further in – the sensation of hovering above the surfaces. There is an ‘old fashioned-ness’ about Copperwhite’s work that hints at an ill defined remembered something – the hint from a hair style or a place or postcard – where the paint drags you along before you can quite catch what it was that you envisaged – the form breaking up as you travel along – and concerning matter and its appearance, quite suddenly Copperwhite’s forms morph into something else. The imagination is loosened but so too is memory – and experience is questioned.

Sinead Ni Mhaonaigh has a strong lush usage of paint; her generosity on the canvas surface is earthy and rich. The thick application is seductive and determined, with the violence of the scoring through the paint rendered sociable by the delicacy of the lines and the precision of the placing. What Ni Mhaonaigh does is to put boundaries or markers down, which either draw the viewer downwards or begin a pushing against the lines drawn. In the welding of the colours to the surface, is the viewer locked in or being drawn into tight focus? As a painter, Ni Mhaonaigh draws attention to drawing, to the sense apart from reproducing, to representation and the idea of the outline, and how we fill in the outline – her painting is of potential, is the painting of a black hole, of a space which postulates the need for opposites, of forgetting to have memories, of understanding empty to know about being full.

Axel Sanson takes his images from a variety of banal sources – the computer screen, popular film, television series, magazines or photographs of friends. He archives these images in a totally democratic manner regardless of provenance. He then reformats the images in his squares, often in series, editing and changing details, and paints these forms in grey tones of thick paint using flat brushes – this gives the viewer a sense of the speed or transience of application or nervous editing, relative imprecision, with the traces of the brushstrokes left on the canvas in a fluid and moving manner, leaving the canvas vague and enigmatic, uncertain and with a shifting focus. What Sanson does is to subject the original image to a treatment that renders it pleasing or otherwise, whether it is true or false. His subjects often highlight the implicit violence common in life in this age, whether explicit or implicit, in this moment or in the next one.

Sarah Dwyer’s paint is a vehicle for a seduction, for a game where the viewer is asked to examine just what are they looking at, at what the colour is covering or representing, whether it is leaping out of something underneath – is the colour helping to see or feel a form, or is it decomposing as you look at it. Exhibiting with the Josh Lilley Gallery London, this Cork-born artist is a graduate of the Royal College of Art, the recipient of many prizes. She masters the nature of paint and unsettles her public – is the paint attached to the canvas surface, are her brushstrokes a finished action? Hers is a complex game for the viewer, does she have a subject, is it a classical subject, surely reminding of a previous place or subject or surface – and equally is the subject falling off the surface? This painter doesn’t seek to reassure, but tell a story which is unfinished and unfixed.

Helen Carey

All photography, by Davey Moor