On a warm evening in May, people gathered outside The Dot Project for the opening of ‘Painting Made Me Do It.’ Drinking ‘cute’ berry cocktails in mini milk bottles; this summery ambiance set the tone for the exhibition. Unlike the usual clinical and artificially lit gallery, sunlight streamed through the glazed façade of The Dot Project, saturating the interior space with bright natural light which illuminated the vivid canvases lining the walls.
Inside I found a dynamic presentation of paintings filling two rooms, though not overwhelmingly; I was granted enough space to comprehensively view each work. But before getting up close to any particular piece, my eyes were quick to race around the room. I was seduced by a full spectrum of color, whilst gingham patterns and vibrant collages also caught my attention. ‘Painting Made Me Do It’ features the practice of four contemporary artists; Hannah Bays, Asger Harbou Gjerdevik, George Little and Jessie Makinson. In mixing their works within the space, the curators – Kwaku Boateng and Amy Purssey – successfully craft a sensorial experience that invites the viewer to voluntarily unravel the more complex meanings within each artwork. Focusing on the physical act of painting, the show celebrates both the abstract and figurative, whilst also reflecting on the actions and truth of the world today and our daily lives.
Hung on the back wall, the vivacity of Gjerdevik’s Calypso immediately captivated me. Delicate yet confident brush-marks juxtapose against the pulsating fuchsia pigment coating the canvas beneath. Calypso’s sporadic and sweeping contours enabled me to trace his artistic journey in the process of creating the work. Every time I viewed the piece, both up-close and from afar, I observed something new in the canvas. This freshness and liveliness is all too often lost in contemporary painting.
Adjacent to Calypso, Little’s piece titled Spura similarly drew me to the picture’s surface. The work’s tactility, its ‘slapdash,’ thick and layered brushstrokes avoid the creation of any clear and distinct points of emphasis. Instead, it forces our eye to travel across the painting; to soak up the rich textures, deep pigments and intricate markings. Whilst the artwork draws on the artist’s personal narrative, its quaint scrapbook aesthetic evokes feelings of nostalgia in the viewer. In keeping with the same style, Bays’ practice investigates the transformative effects of color. I was particularly enthused by Crackpot Daydream hung in the downstairs exhibition space. Recalling a Pop aesthetic, Bays oeuvre pushes and pulls between the abstract and the figurative, the symbolic and purely formal. Though suitably smaller in size than the other exhibits in the room, I was still mesmerized by its vibrant palette and spontaneous brush-marks; an inadvertent theme of this show itself.
Hung opposite Bay’s piece is Jessie Makinson’s Fake French. By referencing the oriental boudoir, the painting plays with contemporary ideas of femininity and cultural appropriation. Upon viewing this particular work, it instantaneously reminded me of the Italian Futurist artist Giacomo Balla. His geometric yet figurative style is similarly conjured in Mackinson’s piece. Whilst the painting is influenced by the romanticism of Parisian chic, movement is also expressed. As in Balla’s practice, the chromatic dissection of light and the segmentation of shapes and figures are taken to the limits of abstraction.In the past I have at times found exhibitions of solely painted works rather monotonous. Wandering around esteemed collections, I can’t help but sometimes feel guilty for becoming tired of observing the same medium over and over again. However, the presentation of works in ‘Painting Made Me Do It’ re-energizes the power of paint. The two-dimensional forms interact with the viewer and with one anther, presenting kaleidoscopic visions of contemporaneity. As recent graduates from prestigious art schools, all four artists have taken a fresh look at the world around them. They have created innovative and diverse artworks that have tested and moved beyond the limits of traditional painting.
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