Tuesday, March 27, 2012

In defence of Painting

It’s called A Case for Painting (2011) and features a young woman about to pry open a case that presumably contains tubes of paint. Colour has yet to be unleashed, so the canvas is black with a few white brushstrokes alluding to it being an unfinished work, a hesitant gesture even. The title of Claire Gavronsky’s irreverent painting is a play on words that evokes the historical baggage that accompanies painting but also the question that every artist is forced to ask before they pick up a paint brush: do I need to say this with paint?

With such an array of mediums and forms now viewed as legitimate conduits for expression, it seems artists cannot simply acquiesce to an intuitive desire to work with this medium without being able to justify it conceptually.

In Immaterial Matters, all the painted works make wry reference to the history of Western art, which immediately substantiates the artists' use of paint.   Rosenclaire – an artistic duo made up of Rose Shakinovsky and Claire Gavronsky –  are females so using this medium has gendered significance too: it was once the preserve of men.

L’avanguardia non si arrende mai (the avante garde never gives up) contains the figure of a young girl in period dress which suggests she hails from an historical work. A faint dark line over her upper lip, suggesting a moustache, recalls Salvador  Dali’s signature feature. Once again the canvas is black, disconnecting the subject from its historical context. It appears like a blackboard, and with white writing it implies the work is part of a “lesson”. This type of painting is thus instructive about the past, a dialogue, a response. Because of this its existence does not require “a defence.”

The title of their exhibition, Immaterial Matters, is another irreverent double play on words, which implies that the materials of a work shouldn’t carry such significance, historical or ideological, but  it also advances the idea that that which is seen and is tangible is less significant than what is unspoken, invisible. In this way they point to the process that occurs when the viewer looks at an art work and interprets meaning.