Jennifer Samet interviews painter Jenny Dubnau about her work.
Dubnau comments that "there is so much editing when it comes to making any realist painting. The challenge lies in making a kind of poetry about the way things really are without straying too far. I don’t change the color or the details too radically; I hew closer to the truth, although I guess it’s all a lie anyway. At a certain point, I learned that the more resemblance to the actual person, the better my painting is. The more verisimilitude, the edgier the painting seems. Whenever I try to stray furthest from what was actually there, it doesn’t seem right.. I think in the contemporary art-world there’s a much-discussed suspicion of what we call 'skill' when it comes to contemporary painting, particularly realist painting. I find that to be a problem, because terrific art can look loose, tight, careful, or sloppy: there’s no one 'legitimate' style. Some people still project the whole history of academic painting onto representational painting made today. But sometimes, you look at representational painting and realize it is haunted by nothing, and that’s really exciting to me."
Painter Robin Williams reflects on Sylvia Sleigh's Annunciation: Paul Rosano (1975).
Williams notes: "I was first struck by [Sleigh's] somewhat naive approach to painting. She fixated on details, roving over a scene telescopically, describing textiles, hair follicles, or flower peddles with equal intensity. Surfaces seemed fetishized or eroticized, but playfully so. Perspectives were sometimes skewed or slightly flattened, revealing her desire to focus on parts rather than the whole. I noticed how this “naive” perspective, instead of invalidating the work, lent it a tranquil sense of painterly equanimity. Her pieces seemed indifferent to the visual hierarchy that defines space, distance, or remove. Sleigh’s eyes were an equalizing force and connected her with her subjects in a way that felt personal and political. In Annunciation, she observed the overflowing garden, the character of specific types of body hair and the minute flecks of light that unified the day. Each represented element seemed to be made from the same molecular makeup, striving to exist on the same plane."
Sharon Butler blogs about two exhibitions - Don't Look Now at Zach Feuer in New York (closed) and New Image Painting at Shane Campbell Gallery, Chicago (August 23 - October 4, 2014).
Butler writes that both shows "[suggest] that a renewed interest in traditional genres--portrait, still life, landscape--is thriving within the painting community... That galleries are positioning a new kind of painting to replace what they (and many critics) see as a tired form of abstraction is a salutary development and very different from the days when the objectness of Minimalism, performance, installation, and electronic media challenged painting."
Haber writes that the show "brings together the five paintings of the Altamira family... The Met has borrowed the oldest son from a private collection, the middle son from the Cleveland Museum. The father comes from the show’s co-sponsor, the Banco de España, and the mother and daughter from the Met’s Lehman Collection. The boy in red, though, is right at home. Regular visitors to the museum will know Manuel well from the silvery white of his broad collar, delicate sleeves, and bowed shoes, along with the broad sash around his waist. ... To Manuel’s other side, cats eye a magpie with tense black and yellow eyes, and one may take a moment to spot the third and darkest cat lurking behind. The boy keeps the black and white bird on a string passing through both hands, with the steady raised arms of an impresario."
Gayford writes: "The new work is, as the title suggests, all about layers. In several ways this marks a departure in Saville’s work. Oxyrhynchus was an ancient Egyptian rubbish dump, a place where precious papyri survived for millennia in the sand. These pictures, though, are more about layers of bodies: different people, different poses, different moments and movements all piled on top of each other... In the past, Saville has painted the effects on the body of surgery and accidents — as if to replicate the distortions of 20th-century art, but in bleeding skin and muscle rather than fractured cubist planes. These recently completed pictures show a shift from trauma to sensuality."
Jackie Wullschlager reviews an exhibition of work by Celia Paul at Victoria Miro, London, on view through August 2, 2014.
Wullschlager writes: "Large-scale, intensely concentrated, pared-down self-portraits and portraits of her four sisters contrast with small, luminous, hazy depictions of bastions or symbols of (male?) establishment power: the British Museum, St George’s Church at dawn, a comically abbreviated, golden, phallic Post Office Tower... The portraits, rigorous but loosely, freely painted in delicate white-grey-brown tonalities, also turn crucially on light effects. Sun streaming into the studio at varying hours and seasons – London’s pale wintry light in a new monumental portrait of Paul’s sister Kate; rising and waning summer brightness hovering over Paul’s own gaunt, taut features in five 'Self-portraits' made monthly from June to October last year – marks time and its passing, while an inner glow emanates from each figure."
Shreya Sethi reviews the exhibition Margot Bergman: Greetings at Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago, on view through July 19, 2014.
Sethi writes the the show "features brash and vigorously emotive neo-expressionist paintings. Large flat female faces with rough features and tense expressions stare directly at incoming viewers from some of the paintings while others exist as perverted, almost violent still-lifes of abstracted flowers and patterned wallpaper... The bold directness and volatile energy of the paintings conjure the rough aesthetics of children’s drawings, while maintaining self-aware and complex psychological depth."
Del Turco writes: "The portraits are almost all close ups, the head bigger than life size, the brushwork layered and energetic, respecting both the form and the surface of the canvas; the palette is rich with realistic skin tones punctuated by marks in saturated colour... Freud's sitters look mostly gloomy and obliging, Auerbach's have their outside appearance obliterated as he explores their humanness. Goodman's sitters on the other hand seem to have a much more active if not democratic role in the work of art, which looks like a cooperation between two human beings rather than a long ordeal one is submitting the other to. The process result in a series of works that speak about painting, life, beauty, memories, engagement."
David Rhodes reviews the recent exhibition Cézanne Site/Non-site at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid.
Rhodes writes that in the exhibition "two concepts coined by the New York artist Robert Smithson during the 1960s have been used to explore aspects of the landscape and still life paintings of Paul Cézanne. For Smithson 'site' was the outdoors and 'non-site,' the studio... In 1967 Smithson argued that Cézanne’s formal achievements had been over emphasized — beginning with the Cubists — at the expense of the important relationship he believed the paintings held to location and environment. Although it might actually seem impossible, to overestimate Cézanne’s formal impact on painters who came after him – only two names need be mentioned, Matisse and Picasso – the consideration of the physical context in the production of Cézanne’s painting is indeed very rewarding. The exhibition rigorously explores the dialectic between open air and studio, convincingly demonstrating an eventual synthesis of the hitherto mutually exclusive experiences. Whereas the impressionists concentrated on landscape alone, Cézanne consistently painted both landscape and still life, eventually seeking to integrate the two, erasing the boundaries (both imaginary and physical) of inside and outside."
Sadie Stein considers the mysterious subject of Parmigianino's painting Schiava Turca (c. 1531–34), on view at The Frick Collection, New York through July 20, 2014.
Stein writes: "The painting, a 1530s Mannerist masterpiece by Parmigianino, is considered an icon of the artist’s hometown, but no one is sure of the sitter’s identity. Was it a noblewoman? A courtesan? Or just an ideal of feminine beauty?... [Curator Aimee] Ng makes a strong case for the literary overtones of the portrait—as she points out, the artist moved in these circles, and well-educated female intellectuals were by no means unusual in the milieu... In sum, whoever they portray, the portraits in the show manage to capture not just a subject, but a moment—and an artist at the height of his powers; not long after, Parmigianino would descend into madness, become obsessed with alchemy, and die in penury at thirty-seven."
Exhibition curator Aimee Ng's talk A Portrait's Mysteries: Parmigianino's Schiava Turca is online here.
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.