Ben Westley Clark // Artists Lunchtime Crit

Miguel’s drawings have a rigorous compositional structure; despite their clunkiness, their architectonic coherence holds them to the wall. There is a sinewy muscularity to the charcoal-on-paper life drawings, which articulate clear pictorial depth.

You could give these drawings to a sculptor and they’d be instructive and clear. Their imperfections are pleasing – they have a dynamism and urgency which circumvents mannerism. The energy in the paintings is less concentrated than in the drawings, which is a disappointment. There is clearly a breadth and inventiveness in the vocabulary of marks and different types of paint application, though. Overall, I feel that drawing could be used to plan the paintings more thoroughly.

Stefano’s painting lacks pictorial dynamism – he could invest more, and risk more, in working through the composition’s network of interrelationships. Despite this, he clearly possesses imagination and a painterly ambition to be poetic. In his hands, different kinds of materials and readymade objects could come to form new relationships – perhaps for Stefano the process of painting could be alchemical. Does he want to create an indexical vocabulary of signs which relate to The World (in a similar vein to how Penck or Basquiat bore witness)?  Or, will he delve into pure, lyrical abstraction (along the lines of Frank Bowling or Howard Hodgkin’s explorations of the sublime)?

Andy’s colour sense is thorough and technical – he can make colour relationships harmonize or clash perfectly. He has a masterful control of shape and line – the block areas are crisply demarcated. His work possesses energy. Could the way that he thinks about his work improve its ability to communicate to a viewer? Could he think more about the interrelationship of positive and negative shapes and spaces? Could he think less about the “names” of the objects in his paintings, and more about their abstract qualities? Could he work quicker and less preciously? Could he vary the size and scale of his paintings? All of these questions could be answered through continuing and making new work. Andy might also benefit from the study of Art History; particularly 20th century Modernism and Artists like Matisse and Kandinsky.

Mary’s painting is complex and ambivalent in the framework of references that it constructs. On the one hand, it suggests a dreamlike, psychologically charged plane inhabited by wraithlike figures. The desolate landscape could function as pathetic fallacy for the characters, who stare into voids, vacant or comatose. It recalls the awkward tension of Hockney’s “Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy” and the existential alarm of Wyeth’s “Christina’s World”. On the other hand though, the painting, with its alienated couple and lone pot plant, could serve as a critique of consumerism and the numbness which accompanies it. It might be read as a collage of regurgitated experiences. If this was how it was intended, could it be more venomous; more jarring? Mary could move into territory occupied by dissident pop artists like Linder Sterling and Gee Vaucher. Perhaps the painting is instructing us to view it in an overtly “meaningful”, literary way, like an illustration. Could it be more open; more formal?


 

Many thanks to Frivolous Convulsions exhibiting artists Ben Westley Clark and Vanessa Mitter for leading the crit and for this writeup! Turf’s next free crit will be on 28 April, led by artist Jennifer Martin

 

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