St Paul st Gallery AUT

Past Exhibitions

PX A purposeless production / A necessary praxis

Genevieve Allison, Guy Benfield, James Cousins, Simon Glaister, Kerstin Gottschalk, Katharina Grosse, Simon Ingram, Imi Knoebel, Tumi Magnusson, Paul McCarthy, Judy Millar, Ben Morieson, Gerhard Richter and Nedko Solakov.

Curated by Leonhard Emmerling

22 August 2007 - 14 September 2007

PX A purposeless production / A necessary praxis (installation view), 2007.

This exhibition is divided in two parts, the first part is curated by Leonhard Emmerling, the second by Jan Bryant.
Both exhibitions speak about painting. The first part called A purposeless production / A necessary praxis has its background in the modernist discussion about painting. Since futurism and surrealism painting has been heavily criticized as the production of a bourgeois commodity, useless when confronted with the need for revolutionary change of society. Its death was announced innumerable times, but it always survived, revitalised by its disciples who believe that it is a useful tool to depict nothing less than the human thinking process. In defence of painting, it also can be argued, that art is a purposeless production by definition (Immanuel Kant, for instance describes the artwork as having purpose without purpose). Arguably, the discussion about painting, when articulated along those lines, aims at the core of every art practice.

The works in the exhibition speak about this conflict in various ways. Paul McCarthy’s Painter (1995) ridicules the practice of abstract expressionism, as do Guy Benfield’s video documented performances. Similarly Ben Morieson’s videoed action of a remote controlled car painting circles on the ground refers to similar territory. By using the car as the painting tool, he opposes his practice to the idea of painting as a means to express authenticity and the inner world of subjectivity. By building and using Lego robotic painting machines for the execution of his work, Simon Ingram stretches out the question of authorial identity in painting. Simon Glaister’s chairs recall the work of Jean Tinguely through a spastic mechanical performance.

The Yellow Blob Story by Nedko Solakov questions in another way the position of the artist as the author of his work. The gallery assistant can execute the painting in any form in a certain yellow. The accompanying text ridicules both the idea of painting as a heroic undertaking and the role of the artist.

Imi Knoebel’s Projection X (1971) refers to modernism’s preference for rational, geometric forms, but is also the symptom of the artist’s deep mistrust of painting, conventionally considered as a stable, framed unity. In a similar way, Tumi Magnússon’s works distance themselves from this idea of painting, by emphasising their temporality and through the addition of sound.

Judy Millar’s work explores the possibility of a contemporary painting practice informed by abstract expressionism, however in their subtractive process these works also contain an ambivalence towards painting.

Formally, the work by Gerhard Richter is very similar to Millar’s. Indeed, his whole artistic career documents his doubts and beliefs in painting as a valid practice.

The humbleness of Kerstin Gottschalk’s staple gunned dots is reflected in the small size of Genevieve Allison's landscape paintings on wood, which, despite their size, speak of the sublime. James Cousins' work reflects an ambivalence towards painting by baring an underlying mimetic landscape painting with a grid structure.

Jackson Pollock’s question to Lee Krasner: “Is this a painting?” could be applied to Katharina Grosse’s huge faux dirt pile, which has been installed in the foyer with painted panels as a backdrop. Grosse’s main interest consists in expanding the criterion of pictoriality to its very limits. By invading the third dimension, she questions the idea of painting as two-dimensional unity.

The exhibition was made possible through the generous support from the Chartwell Trust and Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland.