THE ABJECT OBJECT

Damien Meade, Untitled (Structure 1), 2014

22 Apr - 20 May 2016

10am to 5pm

THE ABJECT OBJECT
Curated by Geraint Evans

Sophie Birch, G L Brierley, Simon Callery, Mark Fairnington, Ana Genoves, John Greenwood, Paul Housley, Damien Meade, Donal Moloney

Exhibition Dates: 22 April - 20 May 2016
Opening Event: Thursday 21 April, 5 - 8pm


“Still life robs the world of human presence, and narrative value. Its illusionism implies an object world that has dispensed with human attention and in a sense makes human attention and the human subject obsolete. And its vision breaks the bond of life between the subject who looks and the world that is seen.”
Norman Bryson: Chardin and the text of Still Life 1989
 
This exhibition is concerned with the painting of objects and the thingness of things. It explores the relationship between the subject and object, the observer and observed. Although the artists included are partly engaged with the still-life tradition - with vanitas or the Spanish bodegón, - their subjects and contexts are far more uncertain and wide-ranging.
 
Within this show there are representations of crudely constructed models (in the case of Meade) or ambiguous architectural forms (Genovés). There are references to the body (Meade, Fairnington), sumptuous non-things (Brierley, Greenwood) and vanitas and the memento mori (Housley, Brierley, Greenwood, Moloney). At times these objects seem to be in a state of collapse or degeneration (Birch, Callery). There are paintings that read as objects (Callery) and objects that suggest the painterly (Genovés). There are moments of bathos and abjection. The objects depicted are, at once, familiar and other.
 
Ana Genovés makes sculptural forms that echo the props of social order - the objects through which we conduct and arrange our civil space. These conventions often default to a neat geometry to suggest an appearance of control; however, there are signs of entropy in the forms and surfaces of her work, suggesting a subsidence into disorder, into the unknown, or the unfathomable - the collective fear of the other.
 
The everyday household objects in the video works of Sophie Birch are in a perpetual state of suspense awaiting their slow-motion collapse. Writing about still life’s relationship with illusionism, Bryson describes the ways in which objects within tromp l’oeil paintings often “present themselves as not awaiting human attention, or as abandoned by human attention” and there is a sense of this abandonment within Birch’s compositions. He continues: “divorced from use things revert to entropy or absurdity – suspended and waiting, disregarded.”
 
Damien Meade’s carefully crafted painterly representations of formless things and modelled heads hover between still life and portraits, inert matter and sentient beings. The heads suggest the possibility of animation, referencing the very moment that the living body reverts to inanimate matter, the slim boundary between life and death, what Julia Kristeva would describe as “…death infecting life” (Julia Kristeva: ‘Powers of Horror’ 1982).
 
Viewed as a series, G L Brierley’s paintings suggest a sort of cabinet of curiosities containing ambiguous objects that shift between decoration and formlessness, the anatomical and the grotesque. Each are described through the application of a range of painterly techniques, from delicate authorial marks to poured, dripped and wrinkled paint.
 
Although the subjects of these works might appear to be formless, crude or abject there is real craft in their painterly representations. The authorial application of paint in Meade’s work echoes the hand-fashioned clay that forms many of his heads. Fairnington’s facility with materials and process suggests the possibility of animation in his anatomical specimens.
 
It is paint’s essential materiality that shapes our relationship with the objects within this work – its quality and appearance resonate with meaning and, at once, elicit both a sense of antipathy and empathy.


Exhibition Event: The Abject Object - Panel Discussion
Date & Time: Thursday 12 May, 4.30 - 6.30pm
Venue: Lecture Theatre, Wimbledon College of Arts
Booking: Please complete the online booking form at the above link.

Join us to discuss and debate the issues raised by the exhibition. Participants will include:
Geraint Evans, Curator, and Course Leader for MA Painting at Wimbledon
Mark Fairnington, participating artist and Reader in Painting CCW
Frances Woodley, artist, academic and curator of exhibitions ‘All Coherence Gone? Historical currents in contemporary still life’ 2014 and ‘Still Life: Ambiguous Practices’ 2015
Dr Fiona Candlin, Senior Lecturer in Museum Studies at Birkbeck University of London and co-author of ‘The Object Reader’ and painter Damien Meade, recent exhibitor in the London Open, Whitechapel Gallery, London 2015.

Image: Damien Meade, Untitled (Structure 1), 2014.