Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mixed Messages: Ian Grose, Andrew Putter and Claudette Schreuders at Stevenson

Dissimulation (Tulips) (2012).

Since winning the Absa L'Atelier award in 2011 for a triptych dubbed Colour, Separation, Ian Grose became hot property. At the opening of Notes, a show presenting work from his residency at the Cité Internationale Des Arts in Paris at the Absa Gallery in Joburg earlier this year, his solo at the Stevenson was cited as further proof of his rapid ascendance.

The artworks seemed to contradict this; they were an underwhelming collection of small paintings of banal subjects - portraits of friends and Cape Town landmarks. While they were tagged as painterly "notes", underscoring that they weren't what the artist considered resolved works, they seemed to lack the charm of spontaneous disjointed ideas. I was left to conclude that the diminutive scale of the paintings had prompted the exhibition's title.

New Paintings, the title of his Stevenson show, may be bland but at least it's non-descriptiveness doesn't generate any expectations. Presumably, this wasn't the motivation; it is more likely the diverse mix of paintings aren't unified by any underlying ideas - unless you can find a way to link studies of folded fabric, flower still lifes and an imploding building.

Some of the paintings, however, evoke a sense of 'collapse' . This idea doesn't manifest in a predictable painterly sort of manner - through the deconstruction or abstraction of form - but is suggested through Grose's choice of subjects and how he isolates them. The studies of imploding buildings in the diptych titled The reconstruction of Pruitt-Igoe map the dissolution of a structure in an obvious way, though the title suggests that through his rendering of the well-documented implosion of this infamous urban housing project in the US, he is reversing the process. In other words, the act of representation is one of reconstitution. So it is that a famously non-existent building is rebuilt via a painting. The work brings to mind the video work Empire (2002) by Kendell Geers in which he replays the implosion of the Twin Towers - - also incidentally designed by the Japanese architect Minoru Yamasaki, who was responsible for the Pruitt-Igoe - backwards so that its annihilation is reversed.