“In an era of installations and performance in which ‘anything’ can be art, a new Tate exhibition [Painting Now] focuses on the work of five contemporary painters” – Why painting still matters by Nicholas Wroe and Simon Grant for The Guardian. “Painting Now” is on until 9 February 2014.
Winner of the Turner Prize 2006, Germain painter Tomma Abts currently lives and works in London. Utterly abstract and non-representational, complex geometric elements build up her paintings, each 48 x 38 centimeters. Abts then works out titles by consulting a book of German first names. What interests her is that she treats each of her works, as she says, “… an image and at the same time an object.”
- My favourite works were “the cat paintings” by Gillian Carnegie; she achieved a real depth and presence with a monochrome palette, in which the only live being in the composition was a black cat. It feels like Something Is About To Happen in her paintings.
- Richard Dorment of The Telegraph doesn’t seem to like these paintings as well as I did, and writes, “If the picture’s black and grey tonality feels spooky, perhaps that’s our problem. All Carnegie has done is show the world as a cat sees it.”
- English painter Simon Ling says of his depictions of seemingly-ordinary street corners in London, “…it is less a celebration of the ordinary than a demonstration of the idea that by painting something that is apparently nothing, it has the opportunity to become everything.” For writer from ArtFund.org, his work landscapes and still-life pictures “border on the grotesque” with their “unflinching naturalism”.
Lucy McKenzie’s paintings and installations involve highly-detailed fake cork message boards, wallpaper and the like. She started her art studies in Glasgow, then soon left Britain to specialise in 19th century decorative painting at Brussels’ Van Der Kelen art school.
Referring to a meeting between Charlie Chaplin and Pablo Picasso “…silent communication between visual modernism and Hollywood’s golden age inspired Catherine Story’s work, in which the gold tones and ramshackle props of silent film meet the impossible geometry of cubism…”.Story references both art and film in her experiments, “…seeking to find ways of imaginatively representing the world in first two and then three dimensions.”
Contemporary Painting in Context symposium at Paul Mellon Centre
In December 2013, ‘Painting Now’ was the centre of the symposium, “Contemporary Painting in Context” at Paul Mellon Centre, a brilliant resource and research centre for British art and architecture. The day of talks and panel discussions with artists, curators, writers and critics included: Michael Bracewell, Dexter Dalwood, David Rayson, David Ryan, John Slyce, and Stephen Bann.
Throughout the day, the conference was around what it means to be a painter, art writer or curator today. Headed by ‘Painting Now’ curators Clarrie Wallis and Andrew Wilson, the discussions went from the context of painting from artist’s studio to public art, painting as a study of materiality, to the role of art criticism, ending with a talk by RCA lecturer John Slyce entitled, “Post-object Painting: Platform and Model in the work of Ian Kiaer”
One of the funniest quotes of the day was from Turner Prize nominee Dexter Dalwood; when speaking about trends in painting, he implored current art students to “Stop painting from photographs. Just stop it. It’s terrible.” His preference is for artists to be confident in their own experiences and ideas, and seems to think it’s pointless to transcribe an image from a photograph to canvas.
All in all, exhibitions at Tate are usually pretty good – well-presented, informative and most importantly, they usually offer a new perspective to whatever you’re looking at. If you want more than an enjoyable 2-hour visual break from your day, an exhibition like ‘Painting Now’ is made better when you can catch a related symposium, curator’s talk or other learning event. I got much more out of the show the second time around because I really looked at the paintings knowing that the rest of the day would be about them.
More links and information
- Tate website: Painting Now exhibition at Tate Britain
- Symposium: Contemporary Painting in Context [PDF], at Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
- Itinerary for Symposium: Contemporary Painting in Context [PDF]
- Review – Painting Now, Tate Britain by Richard Dorment for The Telegraph, 3/5 stars “This is painting you can respect.”
- Review – Painting Now, Five contemporary artists by Laura Cumming of The Guardian “There are no inflated propositions about the state of the art – just the art itself, judiciously chosen, beautifully presented.”
- “A fresh twist” review by Jackie Wullschlager of the Financial Times
- Review – “Tate Britain’s new show offers a concise, and in some ways modest, view of five very different British-based artists” by Ben Luke of the Evening Standard
- “Traditional? Yes. Outdated? Certainly not…the humble painting is far from a thing of the past.” from The Londonist blog
Links for the artists featured in ‘Painting Now’:
Exhibition details: ‘Painting Now’ is on at Tate Britain, Millbank, London SW1P 4RG, from 12 November 2013 to 9 February 2014. Paid admission, concessions. Free admission to Tate Members.