“There is a delicate form of the empirical which identifies itself so intimately with its object that it thereby becomes a theory”.
This statement by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe summarises the pre-occupations of the six exhibiting artists in Painting, Smoking, Eating. The selected artists in this exhibition are painters who are driven by their experience to then reflect that experience through painting.
The artists in this exhibition know their object. They are aware of the histories, the debates and the challenges in making painting today. These artists are in it for the long haul; singularly independent but also marked by a collective distrust of the convenient and anything that would compromise their vision. The place of looking is the studio. It is work, a routine and what begins is a quarrying of the object.
To make paintings is to always be looking. It is the nature and particularity of this looking for the object that is central to both the experience and appearance of a painting. If the painter is fortunate the image will emerge quickly. In general it is never so immediate and will require time. The painter knows that with time there is also a danger in the work becoming too knowing and compliant. In order to establish distance and identify with the object, a risk or chance is taken, usually in the form of a radical decision. This decisiveness can awaken the object of the painting. It is a very particular form and condition of the work presented in this exhibition.
In the quarrying of the image – there is always a movement towards this moment, where truths and lies are expelled between painter and painting. It is difficult to predict, to know when and if it will happen. It should never appear to be forced, although there may have been innumerable revisions and detours in getting there. There is no one way to the object. Sometimes this decisive act comes from a suspicion or doubt that what has been set down previously does not communicate the 'tone' of the object. What is certain is that this encounter can only be revealed through an intense looking at what is present. To paint the object is to always live in the moment.
The painting that does this often locates itself between states, being surface and mirror and window and wall, never quite prioritising one above another. The painter if attentive will immediately recognise and see the experience and surface, as a likeness of the object and in so doing the object becomes a resistant image. As it is only then that the painting turns and has the ability to meet, disarm, transfix and immobilise the painter. It is the myth of the Gorgon and the painters in this exhibition know its stare and the tale intimately.
The paintings in this exhibition talk about this quarrying towards immobilisation. It should never be confused as an end for a painting, far from it. It is an opening-out into the possibilities of painting. Neither should it be mistaken for a closing down of the image. Good paintings are always at work and continue to be at work, as they never know their moment. This is the case whether they were painted two hundred years ago or yesterday. Robert Frost talks about it at work and the moment, in a literary form. Frost says that a poem should be like “ice on a stove – riding on its own melting”.
There will be an opportunity to meet the artists on Saturday 17th May at 6.00pm in the Arthouse in an open discussion and all are welcome. The preview evening takes place on Wednesday 7th May between 6.00 and 9.00pm and again all are welcome. The title of the exhibition is taken from the Philip Guston painting of 1973, Painting, Smoking, Eating (Collection Stedelijk Museum).
Thank you Ellie Watson and all at the Lewisham Arthouse for giving the artists this opportunity to present their work.
Nelson Diplexcito 7.5.14