Another Country, Estorick Collection

Another country is a show about painting - about it’s practice (its formal concerns, its material limitations and endlessly provisional solutions), but also about the unspoken dialogue that painters have with the work of others. The show is an attempt to illuminate a process normally confined to the privacy of the studio and to indicate some ways in which the concerns of the past (as revealed through the examples of modern italian art in the Estorick’s collection) are reframed in the present.

 

For these painters it is not a question of influence, or even of exploring italianness, but of individual concerns in which certain ideas (and their resolution in paint) find resonance across time: Tim Hyman’s concern with figurative painting and how it survives in hostile climates, Lino Mannocci’s with the viability of the metaphysical impulse in painted form, Andrzej Jackowski’s with poetry and visual metaphor, and Merlin James’ with how the meaning invested in an artwork mutates when represented in another medium (painting as photography, sculpture as painting). For myself it has been a more elemental kind of discovery, of an artist I hadn’t encountered before (Zoran Music) but whose outlook and practice struck a personal chord: through his love of remote territory, with how the traces of time and history become embedded in the fabric of a place, and how it persists in memory.

Another Country continues at the Estorick Collection, London, until 20 June 2010

 



London Painters at the Estorick

Another Country, the new exhibition at the Estorick collection, brings together ten highly respected London-based painters: Tony Bevan, Arturo Di Stefano, Luke Elwes, Tim Hyman, Andrzej Jackowski, Merlin James, Glenys Johnson, Alex Lowery, Lino Mannocci and Thomas Newbolt. Each painter has opened a visual dialogue with an Italian artist from the twentieth century. I chose to look at the landscape paintings of Zoran Music, making a connection that the art historian Brendan Prendeville descibes in the following way:-

Every painting is a veil, though given that many abstract painters have sought to vanquish the inherent illusionism of the medium, perhaps we should say, potentially so. It is a potential each of these painters accepts, none of them more explicitly than Luke Elwes. The paintings shown here are characteristic, in their layering of diluted, stained and poured oil paint. Ostensibly abstract, in the sense that they are flat, dispersed in structure and without figural content, they manifestly suggest liquid, flowing, reflective surfaces. That which they enact, then, they also configure.

Zoran Music, Elwes’s chosen artist, was not Italian by birth, though he did spend most of his working life in Italy, moving just across the border from his native Slovenia to live and work in Venice. There is evident identification here, for Elwes himself has a migrant past, having lived for part of his childhood in Iran, and, like Music, he is attracted by remote and desert regions. While the desert, in its aridity, might seem the opposite of these apparently liquid formations, there is an underlying affinity between water and sand, and a liaison between both and the wind: sand is formed and moved by the wind, and flows like water, forming waves and ripples. Elwes intends his paintings to form themselves correspondingly, in a microcosmic recapitulation of these natural processes of flow and inundation. Beneath Refuge we may see the traces of the free, impulsive drawing over which flow the layers of dilute paint. Each painting has such transparency, with crisscrossing paint flows forming lattices through which appear regular, vertical formations in three of the paintings. In all the paintings, in differing ways, regular elements confine or cut across the liquid flows: either submerged and washed over, or intrusive, like the black vertical in Passage. The limit reveals the unbounded.

 

Another Country: London Painters in Dialogue with Modern Italian Art

Estorick Collection, London 28 April - 20 June 2010