Monthly Archives: February 2012

Nature Boy

Ryan Mosley, Dance of the Nobleman, 2010-2011 Oil on canvas 215 x 185.5 cm Copyright The Artist

Ryan Mosely creates figurative paintings that some people have referred to as surrealist cubism. I find this a tad bit lazy, I think Mosely’s paintings work on a far more interesting level than pigeon-holing can provide. The paintings manage to dance around with tradition and modern ways of working and produce a very fresh and inventive voice. Mosely’s work comes across as modern fables melancholically warning us of something we have lost or are about to lose. They are a carnival of skewed snippets from a different time with disembodied heads cavorting and chortling about their daily life. The paintings are produced in an intuitive way (on many different types of supports) towing the line between conceptual painting and painting that simply works.

View more images by Ryan Mosely at Alison Jacques Gallery here and an interview with him in the latest Garageland Magazine here.

Posted by Damien Flood

Ryan Mosley, Bearded Borlotti Bean, 2008 Oil on linen 55 x 65 cm. Copyright The Artist


Clyfford Still Museum, Denver


Clyfford Still Museum interior (at right, "1944-N #1," oil on canvas, 8 1/2' by 7 1/2'), ‘Still’s breakthrough came in 1943-44, when he made the first Abstract Expressionist painting. The selection shows where that monumental work, "1944-N #1," came from..’.

On recent reading of Susan Landauer’s mesmerising “The San Francisco School of Abstract Expressionism,” (published in 1996, University of California Press) it is clear that in America, Abstraction was inherently a national phenomenon as opposed to the common perception that it was centred on the East coast. In Landauer’s important focus on West Coast painters it is evident that their innovative and intense output was no less than sublime. In light of the establishment of significant museums dedicated to individual painters, it would be interesting to provoke contemporary discussion on the breadth of Abstraction across continents, all be it a potentially (to coin Landauer’s word printed inside the dust jacket) ‘gritty’ subject. It is to this similar geographical reference and period that Christopher Knight, in the Los Angeles Times Art review, states that the ‘Denver’s Clyfford Still Museum is now its exclamation point’, to which one is unequivocally inclined to agree. Read more here.

The inaugural installation of Clyfford Still works, curated by Museum director Dean Sobel and adjunct curator David Anfam is further hailed as a ‘knock-out’. One can only wonder with awe as to what it must have been like to have removed the masking tape on so many of Still’s rolled up and previously unseen works and further admire the achievement that this magic is so evidently held throughout the installation.

David Anfam has aptly described Still’s work as considering a painting’s surface to be “hostile terrain”, evoking an interesting space for  further discussion. Similarly the work in Landauer’s book, 16 years on, has bite, is beguiling, bold and brave. The alluring Clyfford Still Museum promises to capture and hold a critical history sharply in focus, located geographically in the centre and centrally in the present, all for which this contemporary painter is grateful.

Posted by Kristina Huxley

Sunday Painters

Ivan Generalic, The Woodcutter, 1959

The term ‘Sunday Painter’  suggests a dabbling in the  practice of painting for spare time amusement and those labelled as such tend to get dismissed in contemporary art circles as ‘amatuers’ and ‘hobbiests’. However, in the late 19th early 20th century the professionalisation of art practice and the realisation of ‘artist’ as a full time career was a remote province for the working class or lower middle class painters working in Europe at that time. Many artists whose work could be considered key in the development of the early modernist movement  such as Paul Gaugain, Paul Cezanne,  Vincent Van Gogh could have all quite easily fit into this restrictive term at stages in their careers.

A painter of this ilk who worked  in a curious quirky style  and manner is the artist  Ivan Generalic (1914-1992). A central figure in the Hlebine School, an artist school formed in the  small rural peasant village of Hlebine in a remote part of Croatia. Most of Generalic’s paintings are done on the back of  glass, a technique that he mastered over several decades and one that reflected his folk roots and craft traditions.

In my opinion Generalic’s painting are a visual  delight  but also an inexplicable blend of the logical and the illogical,  the personal and the universal, the poetic and the realistic.

Oto Bihalji – Merin’s book  Modern Primitives is a fascinating account of  Naïve and Primitive Art made from the late 17th to the mid 20th century. It is no surprise that he devotes some considerable time to Generalic and also one of Generalic’s paintings graces the cover. Bihalji –Merin writes with great honesty and passion about his subject in an almost lost style that makes many recent  art historical texts seem dry and unemotional by comparison. Here is some comments he made on one of Generalic’s most well known painting “The Woodcutter”.

“ Instinctively or knowingly, the naïve peasant painter Generalic has made use of the principle of repetition in order to transcend the actual and visible event and to give his composition an air of symbolism through rhythmic variation. The peasant sitting on the tree swinging his axe is depticted three times as though in mirror images. The strong verticals of the tree trunks are balanced by the horizontal lines of the oxcart and the shimmering peacock which paces so pompously in the foreground. This is a study in simultaneity, one which echos an archaic artistic sensibility and folklore motifs, while at the same time expressing a modern blend of work and daydream. Virtuoso technique and the problematic of the compostiion are already signs that the naïve artist faces questions which are scarcely to be met with simple innocence, but which rather lead to a dramatic creative monologue.” – Oto Bihalji-Merin, Modern Primitives – Naïve Painting from the late seventeenth Century until the Present Day, Thames and Hudson (1971).

Posted by Alison Pilkington.

The Ordinary and the Strange

Neal Tait, Sunday Afternoon, 2009, oil on linen, 60.2x60.5 cm.

Once seen, Neal Tait’s paintings have a way of sticking in your mind. They suggest a lot associations, but any specific readings of the works remain elusive. They’re very open, and raise many questions. The ordinary and the strange meet and odd things happen in the world Tait creates, with disruptions of scale, and objects and figures turning into each other and swapping places.  A number of juxtapositions and in-between states are being played with in the work – figuration and abstraction, obscuring and revealing, past and present, real and imagined, things coming into being and passing away. There’s an openness here in another way – it would appear that the artist allows the element of surprise and accident to play an important role, with the finished works being only revealed through the process of their making. They look a bit like illustrations for stories without any logical narrative, but this description hardly does them justice – they manage to communicate in a way that bypasses language. One of the more interesting artists to be featured in the recent Vitamin P2, more of his work can also be seen here and also here.

Posted by Kevin Mooney.

Painting Migration

Garry Nichols, Tracks of the Water Witch, 1992 oil on linen 82 x 122

Tasmanian born, New York based Garry Nichols’ paintings are rich and mysterious. He uses symbols and images, which are loosely connected to his own personal and family history of migration, alongside the colours and vegetation of Australia. In his best work he makes certain shapes and objects more generalised and less recognisable. Or, to be more precise, some elements might be thought immediately recognisable, but once you are some way into looking at the painting, you realise you’re not quite sure what you’re looking at. For example some of the forms contained in Tracks of the Water Witch (above) may represent leaves or may be derived from Celtic rock carvings. Or may be something else. There’s also a nice play between surface and depth, as well as image, abstraction and semi abstraction going on in much of his work, and these ambiguities make the work interesting. More on Garry Nichols here.

Posted by Kevin Mooney.

Lisa Brice

Lisa Brice, Untitled, 2010

“Lisa Brice has experienced an unusual artistic trajectory. Painting was her major when she studied at art school, but she gradually moved away from what she felt was a contrived medium, only to return to it almost a decade later. ‘I became aware,’ she says, ‘of infinite possibilities within its constraints.’ It is perhaps the freedom acquired through this rediscovery of the medium that has given Brice’s work its sensitivity an precision – and has granted the artist the ability to experiment with various aesthetics without ever fully settling for one.” – Text by Coline Milliard, from Vitamin P2, New Perspectives in Painting, published by Phaidon.  Further examples of the artist’s work can be found at Goodman Gallery here, and Embracing Uncertainty, Lisa Brice interview with Godfried Donker here.

Posted by Conor Brennan.