Tuesday, 30 November 2010

'Immortality'- New Paintings by Ken Currie

Mars, oil on canvas, 210 x 300cms, 2008

As anyone who reads the blog will probably know I’m a big fan of Scottish painter Ken Currie, a contemporary of Peter Howson mentioned in the last entry. In the Eighties they were labeled as ‘The New Glasgow Boys’ with the late Stephen Campbell and Adrian Wiznieskei. His latest paintings are on show at Flowers East, New York, which may mean getting to view them may be a bit difficult, but the images on the Flowers website are well worth a look. I really like the way he has started to paint more convincing portraits. They seem less mannered and stylized than previous paintings. The gallery press release explains some of the motivations behind the work. I’ve cut and pasted some of it below…

Proud and Terrible King, oil on canvas, 167 x 137, 2009

“Dark and dramatic both physically and thematically, Immortality can be viewed as a meditation upon the nature of portraiture itself. While Ken Currie draws upon traditional portrait conventions, these figure paintings do not depict the likenesses of actual people. They are a presentation of an invented world of aristocrats, patrons, military and religious officials, and other esteemed persons who would traditionally be deemed “worthy” of being immortalized in a commissioned portrait.

Currie presents a kind of portraiture in which there are no holds barred, where the painter is not circumscribed by his own desire to flatter or his need for diplomacy. He shows a portraitist free to paint what he has actually seen or construed, and often reverses the process of accentuating the positive. In Currie’s hands, art collectors are depicted not as glossy, proud patrons of the arts, but anxious and vain in front of their acquisitions. A war “hero” sits astride a winded and thirsty horse. A suited man in a typical corporate headquarters-style pose is depicted without trousers.

Chimera, oil on canvas, 240 x 360cms, 2010

Immortality has a spirit of competition with the Spanish masters Currie so admires. Homage to Velázquez in particular can be seen in some of the works, including the large scale Chimera. In Chimera, the space is confusing and ambiguous - the viewer is unaware of his or her physical relationship with these figures: a cradle-to-grave collection of a family. As in Velázquez’s Las Meninas, the artist and the painting itself are found among this fictitious group. On the extreme right, one can see the left hand side of a canvas that is in fact the left hand side of the painting currently being viewed. Currie is shown scrutinizing his canvas, blade in hand, reminding the spectator that a painting is contingent - the painter can decide at any point to destroy what he has created. In another echo of Las Meninas, the artist seems to appear again as the backlit figure standing at an open doorway, looking past the cast of characters and out towards the viewer. Currie suggests the power of painting by creating something both rational and irrational, that exists and yet has no existence, that is real and yet a chimera.”

Follow the link to see more…the ambition of these two artists leave most of other contemporary painters in the shade


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