Thursday, 9 June 2011

History Painting Now

This image above is "Muzzle Flash, 2001" by Sarah Pickering and was part of a group show curated by Nick Hackworth, "History Painting Now" at Art Senus which closed last Saturday 4th June. I attended a curator’s talk on the closing day where four of the seven artists were present and discussions took place around the relationship between Art and Power, the shifting boundaries of the photographic medium and the "war of imagery."

If you didn't get to the talk, or see the exhibition, below is part of a text about the exhibition written by Nick Hackworth. It really was a great show and the works were beautiful, bringing forth very interesting questions about the role of photography within warfare and how disentanglement, a discontenting with the 'traditional' methods provides much more.

"In History Painting Now, seven artists (two of them combined in a duo) based in London and Paris are brought together. Their work addresses war and weaponry and their depiction. Tellingly and intelligently, the relationship of all the works to both power and what might be very crudely be termed ‘the real’ is elliptical, evasive even. Were an equivalent group of artists assembled two centuries ago, when History Painting was the preeminent cultural expression of the ideological requirements of the nascent Nation State, the gallery would be full of heroic depictions of encounters during the Napoleonic Wars.

Here, now, more than a century after Modernism re-cast the role of the artist -from a servile handmaiden articulating the instrumental demands of societies’ elites, to a heroically subjective and critical consciousness adrift in a hostile world - instead of the figurative and the idealized we are presented with abstraction, negation and self-conscious artificiality. Instead of the illusion of proximity and presence offered in another age by History Painting and today by the media, our mediated distance is underlined by the work.

In doing so these works acknowledge that the only space in which Culture can contend with Power without being instantly overwhelmed is the realm of thought, in which, after all, ideology is constructed. In not overreaching themselves, in being in awe of Power, which is necessarily terrible, these works allow that which is not seen, that which remains un-depicted to remain the monster that it is."

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