At HE6, students on the painting degree are required to consider what the public or wider relevance of their work is and how they might explore and develop that through some form of presentation – usually an exhibition. They are also asked to consider the importance of their peers in terms of their degree but also in sustaining a practice post graduation. Here, new painting tutor Keith Ashcroft describes an exhibition he curated recently. He details how he arrived at the curatorial premise and how setting up the exhibition allowed for a development and further chance to investigate the shared theme of representation through twofoldedness.
TWO-FOLD was an exhibition staged in September of this year at a gallery space I run called Oceans apart in Salfiord. The exhibition included my own work and 19 invited artists: Richard Baker, Simon Burton, Chris Gilvan-Cartwright, Jake Clark, Sam Douglas, Martin Golland, Steph Goodger, Ian Hartshorne, Thomas Hylander, Lisa Ivory, Phil King, Fischer Mustin, David R Newton, Tom Palin, Mandy Payne, Joseph O’Rourke, Paul Smith, Duncan Swann and Joanna Whittle (who recently won the Contemporary British Painting prize 2019).
A kind of magic takes place when painters ‘re-present’ something. We take an idea, feeling or thing and present it, record it and draw attention to its potential. We also conjure something other by painting it, and reveal what is hidden in it through the act of painting.
The activity is a complex and primitive one, worked out in and through the painting process itself. It requires intuition and discipline, to orchestrate a multitude of seemingly arbitrary possibilities. And we alternate our responses between seeing the marked surface of registration and endeavouring to facilitate the subject matter at hand. Our intention is to combine these two aspects and generate worlds through depiction, which we unlock, extend, increase and multiply on a 2-dimensional surface.
TWO-FOLD was an exhibition of contemporary painting by 20 International Artists, with an emphasis on representation, the painted surface and how subject matter is sustained and extended through depiction. The title of the show also refers to a painting problem identified by Philosopher Richard Wollheim, who investigated our capacity to experience both a depiction and the means by which a depiction has taken place in a painting. He said we witness one experience with two aspects – one experience, therefore, under its own terms.
I believe paintings have internal and external agendas, their own magic. They could even be said to be sculptural – ‘independent pictures’ – free from the constraints of conventional viewing. And we no longer need to see a painting as only a convincing scene or an illusion. Instead it is an independent thing with its own laws, operating alongside convention and tradition as points of reference.
This exhibition presented 20 opportunities to witness an experience, demonstrated in the idiosyncratic way each painter re-presented the familiar and the unfamiliar. Each painter responded to representation differently, setting up their own ‘twofoldedness’ and vantage points for seeing the depicted content and seeing the fact that we are in the presence of a painted picture.