14th April - 25th April 2010
VIP and Press - 14th April 2010 6 - 9.30 pm
Page 1 is the first of a series of exhibition projects with the aim to promote cultural cooperation among British and Finnish contemporary artists living in London.
Page 1 will show past and recent works by artists Paul Robinson (British), Graham Carrick (British) and Anssi Sojakka (Finnish). Their works deal with critical issues relating to the everyday, environment and evolution.
Even though their approach to painting is radically different in technique and colour, what they do have in common is an unusual sensibility to capture the emotions of everyday life.
CRAZY LIKE THIS by MARTIN MALONEY
Anssi Sojakka paints the rooms in his house seeking out odd angles and sweeping perspectives to suggest a world of claustrophobia verging on madness. He lays small chains into wet paint and waits for the chains to dry to remove them and reveal a pattern of the mark they have made. He carries out this technique across the surface describing people, objects and spaces. The paintings sharply focus on an object in a room: a chair, a bike, or a split view, looking close up and at the space beyond. Sojakka’s work makes a contemporary connection to the work of Vuillard’s intimate interior scenes where wallpapers and floor coverings are vibrant and collide as patterned worlds. Sojakka has learnt too from the quivering trust Van Gogh placed in ordinary domestic objects, where a chair, for example is used to help to secure and hold down a world that seemed to be bending and breaking apart. The artist’s source material draws upon the casual contemporary photographic style of Wolfgang Tillmans and Nan Goldin but the subject matter of these painting belongs to the tradition of artists who have linked depictions of the ordinary domestic world to explain a growing feeling of madness and alienation. Sojakka paints physical spaces which he gives a psychological charge. He looks at the ordinary yet adds some distortion. He creates a world where the banality of an Ikea bookcase or a bag on the floor becomes an object full of melancholy and foreboding. It would be be an exaggeration to say Sojakka’s interiors are sinister. His closed-in world seen in off kilter angles shares some similarity with Roman Polanski ‘s 1965 film Repulsion. Sojakka’s paint surface is agitated. His often muted close colour tones allow objects to merge into an abstraction yet suddenly reverse and colours jump out at you and some objects find a sharp focus.
In Nothing on TV, a white chair occupies the centre of the painting in homage to a Van Gogh painting. A dark toned floor sweeps away and the rest of the room is rendered as an abstraction. The TV screen is on but no one is watching. A human presence is felt but its depiction is minimal. Detail is painted in the TV control panel but the overall feeling is of an empty space of striped wallpaper and floorboards. The sharp angle of the sofa on the left becomes an abstract shape. Abigail’s Bike shows a figure crouched on the bed, head down, reading a book but the bike is the dominant feature. A pink wall competes with and compliments a yellow floor. In Libertine a figure is present only by its leg and a slipper. A carpet is drawn from an angle so we appreciate it’s abstract qualities (reminiscent of a Gursky photograph). Sojakka suggests every knot and twist in the pile. The bag is the centre of the painting and the attention is taken to the bookcase. Intricate in detail and spatially designed with a large area of colour the painting feels like a Japanese wood block print. Licorice is a homage to Van Gogh. Open pink doors and a green carpet frame a view into a room seen from the top to the stairs but the viewer is held back. The painting is an invitation to enter the space beyond where two yellow walls collide. We become voyeurs looking at the world of someone else and experience the bannister as the divide.
Graham Carrick paints snatches of art history surface in a knowing way. In Pick An Emotion he paints an abstract arrangement of angles in a Philip Guston type stacked up arrangement. This is abstraction painted graphically. Carrick’s angles are arranged like a sculptural object emerging from a dark ground. Carrick paints a figurative painting but the subject matter of the painting is the language of abstraction. The artist considers the idea of how to construct an abstract painting. The result is a literal thing formed from abstract parts to become an object. The title suggests a game. The careful but wild arrangement looks like the children’s toy Kerplunk. Carrick makes work which looks carefully painted and skilfully arranged yet casually improvised. We can see he has changes of mind and over painted areas and blocked out sections give the impression that the finished painting has just arrived with some revisions. Neo Feeling is a painting of a head, a portrait with the features obscured and painted over. Baselitz style expressionism competes with a cooler abstraction of lines and angles, Carrick mixes expressionism with the look of futurism but without the meaning or concerns of either art movement. Familiar and clever in its art history it is not trying to quote the past or making us rethink the art we know, it is more just nod at it saying “alright mate” as if he is giving a casual greeting to a passing acquaintance walking down the street. Teeth depicts an open mouth of rainbow coloured, flatly painted abstract rectangles. The background is divided into shapes and two small colour dots hover. It draws a casual authority from Luc Tuymans. Carrick’s hazily described painted world is figurative in intention yet abstract in execution. A carnival merry-go-round world of modernism is used to describe the ordinary world. When Worlds Collide suggest it is a purely abstract painting. Two orange arcs are balanced one on top of the other, beneath the arcs is a solid weight of blue and a washy white ground has been painted over something else not visibly erased but suggested. The painting is presented like a still life but has the concerns of sculpture in how it describes lightness and heaviness and balance. Carrick makes paintings that make sense if you think of them like sculpture just he hasn’t had to do the physical things necessary to make sculpture.
Paul Robinson makes painting of trees and landscapes and mixes them up with the decorative patterns of wallpaper. Stripes, bright blocks of colour, furnishing fabric motifs, exist in a naturalistic landscape or join together to make up that landscape. The complexity of Robinson’s imagery and overlaying of pattern has been informed by the work of Robert Rauschenberg. Robinson paints a world which joins Christopher Wool’s fabric paintings with a 1970’s Peter Phillips pop landscape. Robinson’s lush vegetation is painted with a calligraphic skill. The artist’s flat elegant shapes come from looking at Japanese wood block printing and Robinson acknowledges a long graphic tradition of describing the world by painting flatly. In the process of making his paintings Robinson paints over parts of the established image or they are wiped out or washed away to create a change in focus. Silk-screen printing and painting from projection make a dense detailed surface that breaks down and unpeels in front of our eyes to reveal a decaying world. Ballerina is a portrait of a tree that changed in the bottom half of the painting to a room of wall paper. The painting has the dissolve and fade quality of two sides merging or a double exposed layer of images found in photography. Robinson paints two worlds and they both compete for our attention. His complex painting uses naturalistic description which breaks down. These images are reminiscence of dream sequences from 1960’s films, a drug trip depicted in solarisation photography where the image recorded is wholly or partially reversed in tone. Dark areas appear light or light areas appear dark. The inside and the outside world reverse in an hallucinogenic world of someone on an acid trip trying to make sense of the naturalism of the world and finds the intense naturalism does not help to explain the world.
Here are three new painters each trying to make sense of the world they live in and the art history they have inherited. If they have anything in common it is taking the familiar and changing it to make it look radically different. Carrick makes figurative playful paintings using abstract language with a lightness of touch and sleight of hand but his concerns look sculptural. Sojakka wants to tread in Van Gogh’s footsteps and finds an emotional intensification in the ordinary. He draws our attention to the details of the easily ignored and changes the space of his living room to an abstraction where you have to feel your way thought. Robinson is on a drug trip mixing different scenes together. All three artists take the world that we think we know and gently remove the carpet from under our feet hoping that we will see the world as they see it, finding in their melancholia a suggestion of madness.
Martin Maloney March 23 2010