Michael Raedecker

The ominous spaces and knotted surfaces that made Michael Raedecker’s  work mysteriously engaging and original a decade ago (Kismet 1999, left) have been replaced with something altogether more spare and understated in his new work (now at the  Camden Arts Centre). In their cerebral austerity and chromatic palour they  seem to suppress that once dynamic playful quality which gave the viewer some imaginative purchase on his world.

 

There is not much to go on when gazing at the large works in particular. They appear incomplete and only sketchily realised in their oddly scaled-up format. The strongest of them, a large triptych with luminous circles suggestive of sodium street lighting in a grey mist, is visually compromised by the dead weight of stitching in the heavily emphasised vertical (lamp)posts.

 

The smaller pieces work better: in the flowers delicately picked out with flecks of coloured thread on a musty brown field, and in the pale pink carpet motif, with its woven zig-zags and its gently animated field of tiny textile markings. The former references the Dutch genre scenes of his homeland, while the latter seductively reworks a Rothko-like numinous field in fabric and canvas.  The allusions to art history work best where they are clearest, but sometimes their obliqueness works against them, making them not so much clever as random and arbitrary.

The postmodern framing of familiar genre scenes is knowingly correct but ultimately one comes away feeling that something – atmosphere, substance, movement – has been sacrificed, and wondering whether what is left are simply paler, more deathly, versions of Peter Doig’s uncanny tableaux, just with a little signature embroidery added in.

Michael Raedecker: line-up, Camden Arts Centre, 01 May - 28 June 2009