Universal Remote
Y3K Gallery
15 January – 5 February 2011

Painting today is scattered but the questions around it are tight, they can require some pulling apart, coaxing apart like pot-bound roots. Pleasantly circular thought-paths, though, not like crabbed little scribbles, but spacious arcs, have been moving in my mind as I have ruminated on it recently.

One, regarding answers – sometimes I find myself thinking about the recent history of painting in terms of answers, as in ‘the answer, for painting, lies neither in representation nor abstraction’. Which, yes, but then why does there have to be an answer – or, is the answer going to keep stepping outside the sphere of questioning, with a spry flourish – ha! The answer is that there is no answer. That you can’t think about this in terms of a problem to be solved now, if ever you could. That’s still an answer though. Painting seems particularly interesting and useful at this point because it refuses a solution, it is working beyond solution, which is to say, it is dispersed into a series of fragments, some operant, some not, and none particularly concerned with engaging on the same levels as the others, or considering the same things to be at stake anymore. Parameters, stigmas, can result in a sort of structural freedom, an ability to repurpose the problems.

You cannot, however, get to here without passing through there.

Two, regarding the making of meaning; imagining a heated crit session, maybe it is taking place during the mid-nineties, and the burning question at one point is around ‘getting it’: does a work of art have to embody a concept? Or can meaning also be made by engulfing what moves beyond it, the way institutional practices expand to encompass institutional critiques; so if an artwork is made not to be ‘gotten’, that too can be understood as an intention. Or is that just opening the floodgates for a whole lot of bunkum? I guess painting has been through this to some degree already, with ‘bad painting’, and again subject to the same ebb and flow whereby the next bad painting appears in the bad painters’ quest to flout the stumbling blocks of commodification, only to find it has soared to the elevated status of being valued as the best bad painting to date.

Then, though, there is the question of latent meaning, of absorbing information and constituting thoughts over time, and later on during a period of making material things, said things can feel as though they are ker-thunking out of one’s head, though on reflection they can be seen as ossifications of prior thought processes. Dialectical fossils, or a turning-about of Kant’s problem with attributing objective reality to the mind’s perception of external objects, so: a re-shuffle that gives the mind’s perceptions into reality as [now] external objects, projecting objects rather than ideas of objects, only to find that everyone else in the world simply encounters them as more objects to be projected upon . This accounts for something of the process of making this exhibition, that in its provenance is all about painting, though doesn’t incorporate much paint, few supports and little linen to speak of. And the figure-ground relationship dragged back out into space, a ground smelling reminiscent of gum-turpentine and constituted of pine-bark, filthy pine-bark mind you, but the material that originally served as carapace for the sort of wood that serves for the sort of support that normally we would be working with. The pine-bark, in addition, makes it a safe place, and/or a place for playing in.

It, the body of work, sits in my mind as a series of operators – the money market, here the large billowing silk acting as representative for the not-so-humble bank note, buoyed by globs of oil and harnessed with gold, idiots’ gold. The oil conversation extended to the ‘oil disaster’ that serves at once as a really ugly faux-oil painting of stretched chocolate-brown PVC pleather that approximates fairly faithfully the colour of the Deepwater Horizon oil plume which descended under the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, to sit about 35km long at a depth of 1100 metres.

There is then the painting of Tory HQ on the day of the riots, a smashed window discernable but become a compositional element, its frame of reference only made apparent by its having been compromised, and the whole thing harsh and dark, and sitting far too high.

The operators, then, have been reduced, albeit in very subjective ways, to bare aesthetics, which is to say, they don’t function as action but as thoughts, thought-models. It is too subjective to be thought of as reductivism, and in any case it is not set upon getting to the empirical truth of things, the concern is more with behaviours and relationships.

The cushions are some of the more painterly of the elements in their hammock-loft though they are, with the exception of the big one that’s sort of like a soft Stella, covered with digitally printed fabrics, and are all at any rate there for the practical purpose of providing comfortable sitting-places for the reading group participants. The soft sort-of Stella small and stout to the lithe, stretchy, body-encompassing sort-of Riley that you have to get through to enter the exhibition.

Saade told me this riddle when he came back from Damascus: there are four men buried up to their necks in sand, and a wall separates one from the other three, just to complicate things. They are all facing the same direction. There is a gunman who was responsible for their burial, and for the sake of sport he puts a hat on each man and says to them, two of you are wearing hats of white and purple, two are wearing hats of white and red. If any of you can correctly yell out the colour of your own hat, you are all free to go. Otherwise you will all be shot. Which man can deduce, with some sort of certainty, the colour of his own hat?