Hurvin Anderson at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham
You’re really spoilt for choice for great painting exhibitions in the region at the moment, with terrific shows by Hurvin Anderson at Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, and Ged Quinn at New Art Gallery Walsall.
Ged Quinn at New Art Gallery Walsall
I visited the Ged Quinn show yesterday, being only vaguely familiar with his surreal and theatrical landscape paintings, but this exhibition also presented some peculiar still lives and portraits. All of the work is some sort of riff on different traditions, or genres, and historical periods in paintings and heavy on complex narrative that can often be alienating in certain artist’s hands, but not so here. I’m not really interested in narrative painting, but with these works there was a sense of inclusivity and openness that drew you in to the strange symbolic buildings, objects and figures that occupied the appropriated romantic landscapes of hills and woodland, rivers and forests. You didn’t feel you had to know exactly what all these things meant or stood for to enjoy the work and bring yourself to it. A lot of the work reminded me of the late, great Scottish painter, Steven Campbell, whose dense narrative paintings were also often humourous and rewarding, but with a more off the cuff technique than Quinn’s more slickly painted works. A sign of the times.
The execution of the paintings was just very exciting, with a sense that the artist would leave no stone unturned in exploring the myriad possibilities of oil painting to realize his vision. My favourite paintings in the show were a suite of works called ‘Peter’s Room’, set in a barbers shop. These were a series of repetitive paintings with only subtle differences between many of them, before the introduction of a figure in the later ones, representing the marking of time in this communal space. The revealing layers of paint and the zones where edges and shapes met and overlapped or collided are the things that really excite me (which is like some sort of sad confession). The painting that I most enjoyed though, perhaps unsurprisingly, was a large black and grey urban scene of a street in what rightly or wrongly I’m presuming was Birmingham (top of the post)
I’ve been making some spontaneous small paintings of my own in the studio in the last two weeks, with a view to present them alongside the larger paintings in January’s ‘Black Highway’ exhibition. If you are in the region I'd recommend these shows.