Painterly Effluvia

This week we opened Painterly Effluvia at The Norman Rea Gallery. The exhibition aims to get you thinking about the role of painting in contemporary visual art.

Is painting an antique art form relevant only to bewildered GCSE students and infirm attendees of adult education classes? Is there anything cutting edge about canvas? Is Rolf Harris a harbinger of the acrylic apocalypse, the end of the watercolour world, the oily “OH NO!”?

We’ve fought over this most pressing of issues tooth and nail…so you don’t have to. Against Painting in the 21st Century: Lydia ‘Philistine’ Miller….Louis I don’t appreciate this name because you know my argument makes total sense! I won’t let you edit things anymore!

Lydia’s argument:

More and more frequently I find myself standing in an empty art gallery asking myself the question: what the hell am I looking at? Is interrogating this colourful mess and some abstract form really worth my precious time?

I think everyone who has ever been to an art gallery, anywhere in the world, has experienced this desperate question at some point. This feeling: that artistic talent has truly been lost, is due to 21st century modernism. At least when Niki de Saint Phalle and Bridget Riley were producing modern art it was in the 1960s and everyone just wanted to have a good time!

21st century nonrepresentational art seems to have little meaning in today’s world. What was once seen as passion in the 20th century has now been lost to chaotic nonsense, identified only by the extremely unhelpful name: ‘untitled.’ 20th century collages or mixed media pieces used to comment on society, consumerism, and gender, for example Richard Hamilton’s ‘Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?’

Now, in 2012, we have artists like Ashley Bickerton, who appears to have no aesthetic appreciation, and creates hideous figurative artworks with little meaning. Art is supposed to inspire the public but it is impossible for the public to be inspired when so much drivel is being produced. Let us go back to real art: art that sparks an emotion, art that shows the truth or that shows a bias – art that means something.

For Painting in the 21st Century: Louis ‘Boy-does-he-present-a-compelling-
argument’ Boyd (Louis I’m honestly cringing! – Lydia)

I say the word ‘art’; you think ‘painting’. Sandro Botticelli, Amedeo Modigliani and Lucien Freud are all artists. Emin and Hirst are mercenary caricatures that splash around in the cultural acid bath of mawkish celebrity.

The most important art form since that first wooly mammoth was daubed on that first cave wall, painting remains a dynamic, unrestricted and thrilling medium of visual communication. This is all in evidence in Painterly Effluvia (if I say so myself), which brings together the work of four young artists who have set out to champion the cause of oil and acrylic.

The exhibition parades the tactility and textural depth of painting, with a number of the works including painted forms that protrude devilishly from the canvas in great acrylic tongues, or in plump drips ready to fall at any second. In this the exhibition is unashamedly concerned first and foremost with materiality, using collage, texture and abstract forms to frame its component brush strokes. Focusing on this, these artists nod to colossal predecessors such as Rothko and Kupka. But with this material self-awareness, we can go back further than that too, to Rembrandt who slashed and stabbed at his paintings with a craft knife, opening up alien avenues of brushwork and artistry. This self-awareness and constant reinvention has kept painting ticking over for centuries, and in our own century the same reinvention of the art form continues to take place.

Yes, this might not be an exhibition of meticulously crafted still life pieces; the work may not even be beautiful; but it is work by artists such as these that stands to keep the epic tradition of painting vital, growing and developing. See it, and be inspired to pick up your brush.

Painterly Effluvia is on show at The Norman Rea Gallery until February 24th
The Norman Rea is open 9am-6pm daily.