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Group show: The Triumph of Painting - Part 4 (over)

10 February 2006 until 7 May 2006
  Wangechi Mutu
Wangechi Mutu
Cancer of the Uterus
Cancer of the Uterus, Glitter, fur, collage on found extremely fragile medical illustration paper, 46 x 31cm
2005
 
www.saatchigallery.com The Saatchi Gallery

The Saatchi Gallery
Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road
London SW3 4SQ
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JULES DE BALINCOURT
Born in 1972 in Paris. Currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Text written by Patricia Ellis

Force-fed on TV and an all-American mind-junk diet, Jules De Balincourt's paintings and sculptures both embrace and critique superpower culture. Born in France but working in Brooklyn, de Balincourt draws fictional parodies of Americana, picturing a spoof nation that's both foreign and familiar. Through his faux-naif style, Jules De Balincourt creates a humorous reportage of awe and trepidation, inventing a contemporary anthropology based on media representation, political dissent and community value.

Jules De Balincourt disseminates his ironic treatise through readily appropriated media devices. Mimicking the design of textbook illustrations, WW2 newsreel footage and 1950's film stills, Jules De Balincourt plays on the sensational reference of government-sanctioned entertainment and its underlying uses as ideological weapons. Maps are reordered to propagate geographical ignorance, familiar typefaces spell out impending doom, and symbolic political colours shift uncomfortably between republican pride and the nostalgia of communist threat.

Drawing reference to pop art, graffiti and the iconic Grandma Moses, Jules De Balincourt's folk-art cum genius approach to painting offers a free-for-all licence for his witty and apocalyptic social commentary. Jules De Balincourt's attenuate formalism belies his sly knowingness, adding a layered complexity to his satirical narratives. Using techniques ranging from stencilled and sprayed designs to gestural abstraction, the inherent properties of Jules De Balincourt's media convey literary meaning by simply representing themselves: abstracted blobs churn with frenzied violence, vast planes of red claim dominated territory, and murky fields of black shroud the great unknown.

Using the qualities of outsider art as a synonym for American values, his 'amateurish' style replicates the heritage of grass-roots enthusiasm and democratic freedom. Jules De Balincourt trades the hierarchy of painterly 'sophistication' for the easy-sell of homely aesthetics: bright tones, bold shapes, and cartoonish forms act as propaganda instruction for the lowest common denominator. Painted on wooden boards, his images are underscored with a DIY texture, suggesting a lurid sub-plot of make-do survivalism.

ANDY COLLINS
Born in Atlanta, Georgia. Lives and works in New York, NY.

Text written by Patricia Ellis

Andy Collins's paintings embody a concept of physicality as intellectual dimension. Collins develops his abstracted forms from sexy fashion magazine images, mentally tracing the gaps created by necklines, folded knees and flirtatious ripples in fabric. Fixating on the voids, Collins explores the workings of his compositions from the inside out, creating meditative fields from the recesses of liminal space. This voyeuristic familiarity of his figurative subjects is transferred into clinical surfaces, as synthetic and emotionally distant as his media sources.

Cold and glossy, Collins's large soft-hued canvases are suffocating vacuums of glamour. Taking several months to complete a work, (using up to 30 layers of antiseptically applied paint) Collins painstakingly constructs his airless forms entirely by hand, leaving no trace of brushwork or human arbitration. His biomorphic compositions exude a contemporary religion and instances of electrifying, vacuous beauty, mesmerising in their seduction and emptiness.

Reducing recognisable forms to their barest essentials, Andy Collins's paintings are neither abstract nor figurative, but rather host a supernatural quality of inbetween-ness; an embodiment of aura and retention. Contemplation of negative space takes metaphysical form, an ingrained knowledge gained from not only seeing, but experiencing silky textures and promising depths through the act of painting. Collins addresses the links between physicality and memory. His paintings operate as synthetic fields, visually suggesting heightened sensations of touch, scent and sound.

Collins uses this subliminally as a departure point for mystical experience. Reminiscent of religious painting, Collins's pastel colours evaporate into halos of blinding white radiance. Space becomes the focus of Collins's paintings and is suggestive of topographical maps, geological formations and x-rays. Fluctuating between the mechanical and biological, Collins evokes an unsettling mix, that of a calculating and corporate detachment born of the most intimate contemplation.

LOTHAR HEMPEL
Born in 1966 in Cologne. Currently lives and works in Cologne.

Text written by Patricia Ellis

Working accross a wide range of media, Lothar Hempel stages elaborate theatrical possibilities. His constructed situations confront viewers with open-ended ethical and ideological dilemmas that challenge and reflect their concept of self. Stemming from this interest in value and identification systems, Hempel's paintings exist as potential casts for his interactive scenarios. Reminiscent of Bertolt Brecht's 'epic theatre', Hempel's formalist compositions and puppet-like figures do not provoke emotional engagement, but rather the viewer's detached critical reaction to presented narratives.

In this series of paintings, Hempel designs a parade of figures; identical in stance, their similar format makes them interchangeable as props. Hempel's dream-like, surreal forms don't pretend a reality, but constantly reinforce their staged-ness. Each character is defined by their decorative properties, the aesthetics of painting itself becoming an extension of persona, ideology and storytelling. Through simplified and stylistic rendering, Hempel creates a sense of contrived charade: his figures are suggestive of impostors, knowing hypocrites or deceptive pawns of the unseen.

Conceiving fractured identity as a bi-product of modernity, Hempel paints his portraits with a fleeting sense of transience. Painted on paper, they are literally and metaphorically two dimensional figures of fancy. Inspired by ancient Greek theatre, Hempel's players' mannered stance and armless torsos restrain overt gestures of action to maximise audience imagination and response. The characters' attributes and emotions are conveyed solely by their costumes and sculptural masks. Their recital unfolds from symbolic and psychological interpretation rather than physical illustration.

The neutrality of Hempel's paintings suggests the timelessness of moral epics. Redolent of medieval tapestries or Byzantine frescoes, Hempel gives his paintings a clean-cut contemporary design, collapsing past, present, and future into the context of myth. Posing the classic foils of comedy and tragedy as ritualistic cycles, Hempel alludes to the folly of the human condition.

STEFAN KÜRTEN
Born in 1963 in Düsseldorf. Currently lives and works in Düsseldorf and New York.

Text written by Patricia Ellis

Stefan Kurten's scenes of an idyllic suburbia unleash the awesome wonder in the nature of small things. Overwhelming in their obsessive detail, Kurten's gardens and interiors become macrocosms of discovery, where pastoral homeliness unfolds as sublime infinity of repetitive shapes, patterns and textures. Balancing the order of a utopian construction with the organic chaos of nature, Kurten's paintings reflect a spiritual harmony, thus creating a poetic beauty in their suggestion of cyclical transience.

Kurten draws from art history to utilise the ideological strategies of classic image construction; gold paint makes reference to religious icons and alchemic wisdom. His compositions are often based on the mathematical precision of the Golden Mean. The finite qualities of science provide a working model for visual tranquillity and spiritual enlightenment.

Working from images found in 70's home-making manuals, as well as from his own photographs, Kurten reproduces the cool detachment of lifestyle glamour in marvellously intricate designs. Fleeting moments of perfection are effused through decorative constellations. Living rooms are consumed with abundance of chintz, gardens explode with a proliferation of greenery and each twig and leaf is precisely defined. Throughout Kurten's paintings is a tension of natural process, a gentle acquiescence of rebirth and decay.

In his obsessive patterning, Kurten explores the virtuality of paint. His mosaic-style brushwork seems not just to replicate colour, but the prism-like workings of light itself. Shadows and highlights are refracted through tiny strokes and dabs, made more vibrant through the illusion of contrasting hues, where fields of metallic paint carry their own luxurious reflections. Scenes set up in careful accordance to perspective are remote and contrived.

Detailed to the point of decadence, Kurten's canvases create self-sustaining environments determined by their own mystical reason. Through painting, Kurten's dazzling compulsion becomes a meditative repose, offering beauty as a form of escapism, and the wishful gratification of daydreams.

JONATHAN MEESE
Born in 1971 in Tokyo. Currently lives and works in Berlin.

Text written by Patricia Ellis

Jonathan Meese is a self-proclaimed cultural exorcist. In his performances, sculptures and paintings he adopts a shamanistic role, channelling all manner of chaotic zeitgeist. His personal interests reverberate throughout his paintings: comic books, horror films, medieval crusades and outsider art merge into a compendium of morality and epic failure. In his paintings, clear-cut roles of good vs. evil are confused, ironic propaganda is served up with homebrew conviction and malevolent knaves become heroes of the disenfranchised..

Appropriating historical and media references, Meese parodies his own symbolism. His paintings adopt the theatrical quality of opera, with pretend realms of decadence and absurdity, where form and idea become easily detached and reassembled according to the artist's own logic. Meese's grand claims become zombie-like effigies, redundant sequels to real historical epics. Finding catharsis in replicating ritual, Meese renders its powerful aura defunct in the process.

In his self-portraits, Meese exaggerates his real-life 'wild-man' features, his image continuously mutating through a cast of characters – from demons to divas – to develop potential narratives exploring the nature of power and conspiracy underlying contemporary mythology. Through his many reinventions, Meese replicates celebrity image manufacturing to style himself as a cult figure: both symptom and cure of a corrupted belief system. His narrative works play out B-movie fantasies in feudal tableaux, hailing religion and politics as punk-style forgeries. Collectively Meese's works operate as meta-narratives; feeding the fictional legacy of the artist as an almighty and immortal entity.

Meese furnishes his work with an amateur aesthetic; his expressionism is staged as adolescent malice, embracing the values of individualism and anarchical force. Grotesque, sublime and comically dumb, his paintings follow the principles of science fiction prophecy. They envision the future as a post-Armageddon landscape, where primitivism is embraced as the rational and finite social solution.

WANGECHI MUTU
Born in 1972 in Nairobi, Kenya. Currently lives and works in New York.

Text written by Patricia Ellis

Kenyan-born Wangechi Mutu has trained as both a sculptor and anthropologist. Her work explores the contradictions of female and cultural identity and makes reference to colonial history, contemporary African politics and the international fashion industry. Drawing from the aesthetics of traditional crafts, science fiction and funkadelia, Mutu's works document the contemporary myth making of endangered cultural heritage.

Piecing together magazine imagery with painted surfaces and found materials, Mutu's elaborate collages mimic amputation, transplant operations and bionic prosthetics. Her figures become satirical mutilations. Their forms are grotesquely marred through perverse modification, echoing the atrocities of war or self-inflicted improvements of plastic surgery. Mutu examines how ideology is very much tied to corporeal form. She cites a European preference to physique that has been inflicted on and adapted by Africans, resulting in both social hierarchy and genocide.

Mutu's figures are equally repulsive and attractive. From corruption and violence, Mutu creates a glamorous beauty. Her figures are empowered by their survivalist adaptation to atrocity, immunised and 'improved' by horror and victimisation. Their exaggerated features are appropriated from lifestyle magazines and constructed from festive materials such as fairy dust and fun fur. Mutu uses materials which refer to African identity and political strife: dazzling black glitter symbolises western desire which simultaneously alludes to the illegal diamond trade and its terrible consequences. Her work embodies a notion of identity crisis, where origin and ownership of cultural signifiers becomes an unsettling and dubious terrain.

Mutu's collages seem both ancient and futuristic. Her figures aspire to a super-race, by-products of an imposed evolution. In this series of work, she uses old medical diagrams, to convey the authenticity of artefact, as well as an appointed cultural value. Satirically identifying her 'diseases' as a sub/post-human monsters, she invents an equally primitive and prophetically alien species; a visionary futurism inclusive of cultural difference and self-determination.

TAL R
Born in Israel in 1967. Currently lives and works in Copenhagen.

Text written by Patricia Ellis

Israel-born, Denmark-based artist Tal R describes his painting style as 'Kolbojnik', the Hebrew word for leftovers. Rendered in an instinctive and faux-naive abstraction, his canvases are often literally collaged together like visual goulash.

Tal R's paintings are derived from his everyday life; imaginary scenes suggest awkward and puerile narratives of suburban fairytale. Inspired by music, comics, TV and nostalgic video game graphics, more than Picasso, Matisse, and Albers, Tal R appropriates painting for his own means. Personalising tradition, his work acts as a celebration of making, creativity, and 'hands on' ingenuity. A return to art for art's sake, his paintings revive the long-dead values of autonomy and expression.

Tal R's paintings have a hippy-trippy feel about them, a crafty flash-back to the 60's. Wilfully child-like, his work is infused with a bygone esteem of innocence, often incongruous with the sophistication of his adult subject matter. Permeated with dark undertones, Tal R's home-brew designs and clumsy ham-fisted depictions evoke a sense of lost beguilement.

Striving to recapture a validity of play, Tal R creates a world absorbed in adolescent confusion: occultish drawings of graveyards, paintings of sexless block-headed figures, and giant magic mushrooms are portrayed with convincing chastity. Remixing socialist aesthetic with consumer culture ethic, his large collages burst with hundreds of tiny clipped figures and consumer ephemera. From nazi soldiers to gay porn stars, cartoon animals and chintz furniture: his primitive totems are monuments to catalogue cut-out homology.

Tal R injects painting with fresh invigoration. Shunning hierarchies and intellectualism, he uses painting for its most genuine purpose: spontaneous and unarbitrated conveyance of his experience of the world around him. Propagating a softer, cuddlier avant garde, where all things having achieved logo-istic equality, he resurrects the almost forgotten concept of artistic genius.

DANIEL RICHTER
Born in Germany in 1963. Currently lives and works in Berlin and Hamburg.

Text written by Patricia Ellis

Daniel Richter's paintings are elaborate in their deconstruction and recodification of art history. Drawing a wide range of reference from Goya, Munch, Ensor, to Immendorff and Doig, Richter offers a revisionist position for the crisis of painting in the 21st century.

Richter's work is often read with political motive. Working in the genre of epic historical painting, his images are fraught with a painterly anxiety. His work is infused with an apocalyptic energy, reflective of media induced paranoia. Beneath his highly seductive surfaces lies the portent of instability, violence, alienation and ideological subversion of a contemporary world in constant flux.

Taking his subjects from pictures found in newspapers, comics, album and book covers, Richter repositions contemporary media imagery in the form of theatrical tableaux that are fantastical and timeless.

His nightmarish scenes are both terrifying and beautiful: rebellious mobs attacking the Berlin wall are staged with medieval religious zeal; gatherings of vagabonds glow with paranormal threat. Laden with the weight of implied history, Richter's scenes extend beyond emblematic reading; their narratives take on the qualities of magical realism, extending a shiver of supernatural barbarism to depictions of current affairs.

Richter's canvases are imbued with an alchemic affinity for paint. Copious techniques and applications deceptively flaunt the process of making, yet remain elusive in their overwhelming complexity. Richter handles paint with an unwieldy passion: every colour in his controlled chaos retains its magnetic purity, he creates depth that seems to grow, like an organic force, from within the canvas.

Richter's paintings radiate with their own internal light, bringing his dreamy scenes of contemporary fable to life with enduring authority.

AMY SILLMAN
Born in 1966. Currently lives and works in New York.

Text written by Patricia Ellis

Amy Sillman's work is highly intuitive. Her rich, colourful paintings reveal a lyrical charm, detailing visions of dream-like impressions. Conceiving painting as an outward projection of an inner dialogue, Amy Sillman approaches painting as a visual sub-language, an expression of sentiments that float intangibly between mental consciousness and formulated communication. Amy Sillman's canvases offer glimpses into this subliminal world; veering between abstract and almost representational, she strives to give form to the spontaneous meanderings of her imagination.

Pleasing and decorative, the delight in Amy Sillman's work is in the sophistication of her application. In her study of how to express the totality of thought, she becomes absorbed in the semiotics of painterly language itself. Thick impasto mixes readily with sly dabs and drizzles, while radiant hues and hurried gestures appear in their own space and time. Amy Sillman's compositions are as random and interconnected as bubbles of the subconscious, sharing a private thought that is simultaneously whimsical and crude.

In Amy Sillman's canvases, forms effuse in disjointed rhythm, colour has the weightlessness of pure light. Strangely intimate, her abstractions capture the free-flow of unformulated ideas, resounding with a distant familiarity. Landscapes unfold as spills of colour, sunsets as jagged swipes, flowers and birds emerge with comic simplicity. Amy Sillman's application replicates daydreaming itself. Patches build up in jumbled confusion while others trail off into capricious nothingness, forms repeat like fragmented memories, struggling to regain wholeness.

Amy Sillman's paintings possess a confessional truthfulness, complexly articulated by an astute engagement with artistic lineage, psychoanalysis and feminist theory. In affirming her expression of 'self' she paints with an almost child-like sense of innocence, unmitigated and unembarrassed. Embracing a modernist reverence of inspired imagination, Amy Sillman defines honesty as the most enduring quality of painting.

ENA SWANSEA
Born in 1966 in North Carolina, USA. Currently lives and works in New York.

Text written by Patricia Ellis

The subject of Ena Swansea's paintings is found as much in her technique as in her depicted images. Working in oil paint over graphite grounds, Swansea allows the unpredictable qualities of her media to clash with alchemic tension. Her highly worked surfaces are physical embodiments of sophisticated psychologies: her depicted environments hover between reality and fantasy dimensions, reflecting the inner spirituality and volatile self-awareness of her female characters.

Combining drawing with painting, Ena Swansea's canvases invoke a timeless sentimentality. Working from memory rather than photographs, Swansea conjures her images from a subliminal void. Instead of solidifying form, her colours replicate light itself: shimmering highlights and sooty shadows emanate from objects not physically rendered, but transiently implied through positive and negative space.

This formal allusion is replicated in the materiality of her surfaces: the uniquely gritty and greasy texture of graphic radiates with a metallic and dusty sheen, both deflecting and consuming light. Masked by breezy layers of oil paint, figures emerge as ghost-like contours, suspended in dream-space. Ena Swansea's work captures a broken sense of time and space, where frail figures inhabit a world that is deceptively emotive and unstable.

Ena Swansea exploits the malleability of paint to embrace a sense of theatrical drama. Formulaic elements of film are constructed with painterly sensitivity: elongated viewpoints, provocative lighting and the choreographed positions of her figures are used to create suggestions of narrative fiction and emotional hesitancy. Her pastoral scenes are infused with a surreal disorientation.

Ena Swansea constructs her idyll daydreams as sources of empowerment and innuendo. Alluding to the sexual nature of the subconscious, Swansea's heroines are both victims and manipulators, their environments made larger in their hyperawareness of their own mystical powers and neurotic susceptibilities. Within her enigmatic paintings, Swansea defines feminine identity as an omnipotent force, entwining the carnal and cerebral in a confident, metaphysical self-knowledge.



Related Publications:

The Triumph of Painting
will define how painting has not only survived into the new century in the face of the barrage of imagery from other media, but it will demonstrate how painting has absorbed that imagery, reshaped it in its own central domain, and touched us profoundly.

£35.00 - Published by Random House

Visitors to the gallery can purchase the book at the special price of £30.00

First in a series of supplementary volumes featuring many key works by 6 important artists'. Essay by Alison Gingeras, biographies by Patricia Ellis.

£16.50 - Published and distributed by Koenig Books London

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