22 MAY– 27 JUNE 2015
Simon Lee Gallery is proud to present “HOMELAND”, a display of paintings by a group of British artists whose motifs and strategies may be seen as contemporary takes on History Painting. Using varying and contrasting approaches, the works engage with the appropriation and manipulation of historical and art historical images.
Toby Ziegler’s recent paintings on aluminium are works of pure abstraction that begin with a figurative motif. Taking a digital image of a landscape painting by Thomas Gainsborough as his starting point, Ziegler manipulates the image on a computer, changing the polarity of the colours and altering their saturation so that the formal qualities are retained but the colour information is unrecognisably distorted. The altered composition is then painted onto an aluminium panel. Progressing into erasure, the paint is subsequently removed using an electric sander to reveal the metal beneath. Ziegler’s process subjects the images to a process of digital and physical obliteration, in which representational pictorial information gives way to new abstract forms. Rather than disclosing the attempt to perfect or adjust a composition, these paintings experiment with the relationship between control and abandon and revel in its dissolution.
Dexter Dalwood, conversely, reconstructs places or sites from collages of memory, cultural, political and painted and imagined history. Dalwood references pivotal historic people and moments, interlacing elusive allusions and social histories with art historical iconographies. Quoting works such as a 1950 painting by De Kooning, who during a lecture in the same year spoke of art history as a “train track that goes way back to Mesopotamia”, the manifold landscape of “Washington Crossing the Delaware” purely through its painted reality, produces a strong sense of time, site, memory and history. Somewhere between the title, the fragments of imagery and the viewer’s subjectivity, each work acquires a meaning that continues to re-invigorate and re-invent contemporary history painting.
With technical virtuosity, Glenn Brown’s practice copies and modifies reproductions of works of art, imitating the painted surface in a perfect illusion, while being completely devoid of texture and further manipulating the image through variation of colours. Rendering thick brush marks in a flat, photographic manner, works by artists such as Frank Auerbach and Karel Appel are reproduced from pictures in books and magazines, in an extreme form of quotation that draws further attention to the medium. With painterly rhetoric and sophisticated distortion, Brown examines our relationship with the art of the past from Rococo to Mannerist, Expressionist and Surrealist, while also exploring issues of original authorship and reproduction.
In jarring juxtapositions of contemporary, modernist and retro-futuristic motifs within classical landscape compositions, Ged Quinn’s large scale paintings combine anachronistic references to art and literature with the strong traditions of landscape and still-life painting. Scenes resembling pastoral visions are muddled and dramatised with historical and imaginative curiosities from social, cultural and political history. Canonised meanings of the historical paintings are shifted into an unstructured narrative in which the layered quotations, motifs and symbols are in conversation and competition, encoding a tension deep within the imagistic theatre of the work.