Curated by the writer and critic Martin Herbert, the exhibition features 19 artists, primarily British or UK based, whose work spans a myriad of styles and applications, from figuration to abstraction. This exhibition is shared between the University of Bath and Bath Spa University, with works at the Andrew Brownsword Gallery and Locksbrook Campus.
Art has reacted, like everything else, to digital technology, both on the level of making and reception. The speed at which art is consumed has been transformed by shorter attention spans and the desire to make images that ‘pop’ on smartphone and computer screens. Yet painting has historically been both created and received patiently, offering a space of pause, contemplation and gradual unfurling. Slow Painting offers a counterbalance to an increasingly accelerating world, comprising works that illustrate the role of painting as a rewarding repository of time.
Full list of artists: Darren Almond; Athanasios Argianas; Michael Armitage; Gareth Cadwallader; Varda Caivano; Lubaina Himid; Paul Housley; Merlin James; Allison Katz; Simon Ling; Lucy McKenzie; Mairead O’hEocha; Yelena Popova; Carol Rhodes; Sherman Sam; Benjamin Senior; Michael Simpson; Tim Stoner; Caragh Thuring.
Slow Painting aims to explore multiple aspects of what slowness might mean in relation to recent painting. The exhibition includes works that have taken long periods to gestate, and others that engage with spans of time, from the continuum of art history to wider cultural and political histories. All of them, though, reward sustained contemplation.Martin Herbert, Curator
Figurative paintings may offer an immediately legible image, but conceptually abstract narratives soon reveal themselves. The paintings of Allison Katz are built from individual components we recognise, but the overall work deliberately holds back from full coherence, suggesting painting as a sophisticated unfolding game. Benjamin Senior draws from multiple pictorial traditions at once – the unearthly compositions of Stanley Spencer, the poise of Balthus, the languor of impressionism – to allow initially familiar scenes to transform in surprising ways through a kaleidoscopic range of aesthetics.
Canvases may be lushly information-rich, as in the landscape-based work of Tim Stoner, who paints recognisable subjects – cafes, the landscape – in a knotty manner that suggests ghostly, strange narratives at the edge of the familiar. Similarly, Simon Ling applies subtle distortions to mundane everyday, suggesting an ungraspable life banked down beneath the surface. Conversely, the paintings of Russian-born, Nottingham-based artist Yelena Popova, take time to even see: her evaporating paintings make use of the light and movement of the viewer to present themselves.
A number of the works, such as those by Lubaina Himid and Michael Armitage, speak to time and memory themselves. Himid’s vividly coloured works uncover buried histories of colonialism, particularly as it relates to British nautical history and the transatlantic slave trade. They contain a deep sense of historical time. Armitage, a young painter working between London and Nairobi, instils dreamlike, lyrical images on a traditional Ugandan bark cloth that explore the instability of memory. It seems appropriate, then, that Armitage builds up his moody tertiary tones in layers, and that the paintings slip between figuration and passages of abstraction.
Slow Painting is a Hayward Gallery Touring exhibition.
Leeds Art Gallery
25 October – 12 January 2020
The Levinsky Gallery, The Arts Institute – University of Plymouth
24 January – 28 March 2020
The Edge, University of Bath and Bath Spa School of Art and Design
10 April – 6 June 2020
Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, and Thurso Art Gallery
24 July – 3 October 2020