Having exhibited a plethora of contemporary art, from neon’s to 3-D art the idea of creating a show purely based on figurative painting do did not come instantly.
The painters in my stable of artists here a minority. It wasn’t until I came across the artist Carp Matthew at The Other Art Fair that my idea of painting was blown apart, his raw visceral style had me hooked. The intensity of the brush strokes and heavily indented marks made me want to re-examine painting in a completely different way. Carp Matthew had no formal training from art school and works full time at a bookmaker in South London, yet he has been squirreled always painting furiously and creating this oeuvre of work, which was astounding and ground-breaking. It was with this in mind that I re- awakened my passion for painting.
I started examining what it means to paint figuratively and the different contemporary approaches artist have to offer, with this in mind I had a chance encounter with Eugene Ankomah who came to me with his idea on “brain-wave” paintings, having a background in conceptually led installations and politically charged art, we started discussing his new project. Using brain scans he started drawing and painting around them, not with the traditional materials of pencil and paint but using a programme called SMEMO which if anyone remembers is like the old PC programme paint. The visual effects were brilliant, and I loved the idea that he was using this somewhat old-fashioned tool to create these stunning contemporary works.
I wanted to completely explore the idea of figurative art and its relevancy today, with that in mind I turned to an artist I have been championing for quite a few years – Magnus Gjoen. His perfectly executed work has always been inspired by the old masters, from the baroque to the renaissance; he loved the idea of the exhibition and had the perfect piece. He would re-create a piece “San Sebastian” which he made years before but which was burnt down in an accidental fire at his studio. Fittingly the piece is based on the Christian martyr San Sebastian, made using digital media, gold leaf paint and hand made Japanese arrows.
Organising an exhibition exploring figurative painting without looking at our predecessors within art history would be impossible, subsequently I discovered South African artist Frans Smit, having being mentored by Lucien Feud definitely gives him an authority on painting. Frequently he reinterprets the old masters within his work, for this exhibition he made two re-interpretations of John Singer Sargent’s works, but he’s completely turned them on their heads, using blue glitter and spray paint he questions the idea of authorship and authenticity. Equally, Lee Ellis has given direct homage to his art heroes by creating portraits of them, from Frida Kahlo to Andy Warhol, he re-invents their portrait image and lends an intimacy to these “art Celebrities’
The final act of exploration was how do we paint? With this I brought in Benjamin Thomas Taylor, his lager than life paintings poke fun at the art establishment but also ignite a joy in the viewer, they are highly colourful landscape inspired pieces, painted to purposely look like a paint by numbers piece you might find in a children’s colouring book. The effect is tongue in cheek but moving and uplifting at the same time.
The beginning of this exhibition there was a question – is painting dead? To answer that question: no absolutely not, artists are constantly re-evaluating the medium and recreating innovative ways of creating, questioning the medium itself and the masters who created them, painting is alive and kicking just not in the ways we once knew…
The exhibition Figure It Out and its at The Leontia Gallery from the 10th May until the 31st May.