John Hurrell – 21 November, 2013
However just because she renders such images does not by itself necessarily imply criticism. Pick might just see it as part of the inevitable process of youth's growing up and educating itself. She may even think it is a good thing to publicly experiment with altered bodily and mental states, and want to encourage it.
16 November - 21 December 2013
This most interesting show from Seraphine Pick is one of the more accomplished presentations from her in recent years. Gone are the rigid stiffness of some of her figures and awkward compositional clusters, problems that used to be commonplace. Instead the twenty-one oil paintings here, a lot of portraits among them, are executed with a consistently deft, manual fluidity, mixed with pale colours seemingly influenced by Luc Tuymans. Like many painters these days, Pick uses as her image base downloaded pictures from the internet: in this case snaps of young people (more women than men) drunk.
Not that it is transparently obvious that they have been drinking. Two or three young women, lying paralytic on benches, could be happily snoozing, possibly after working too hard at a job or studying too long. Other folk who have sliced fruit garnishes or peeled veges on their eyes, cigarettes up their nostrils, or jars balanced on their heads, could simply be boisterously fooling around for laughs that in essence are not alcohol related. As we don’t see any bottles, cans or glasses, the issue of intoxication is many cases is not very apparent.
And there could be some symbolism intended, as you might find in Hieronymus Bosch or (without symbolism) Pieter Brueghel the Younger - works about any number of varieties of sin or human failing. Or it might simply have as its point a reference to art history: historic (like Bosch and Brueghel’s use of symbolism) or contemporary (like Erwin Wurm or Martin Kersels‘ humour).
The hang at Lett is nicely organised with two or three different subthemes (Decorated Portrait, Park Bench, Sidewalk) spread out and intermingled. In fact the selection looks curated. There is a unity that is rich in cross-connections throughout the four walls of the room.
Beautifully made, some of these paintings have a touch of early fifties illustration about them, especially one of a young woman and her handbag. Others show the influence of Vladmir Tretchikoff in the depiction of coloured faces and forearms. The most unsuccessful painting is the biggest, showing a guy with an orange road cone over his head staggering ominously towards a lake at night. It looks quite clumsy compared to the others which are fastidiously fine in their precision, and stylishly composed.
Of course it will probably be assumed by most of her audience that Pick is troubled by media coverage of young people getting publicly drunk - or perhaps is fed up from seeing it directly herself - and that this show reflects that alarm. Afterall the title, with its dismissive reference to masturbation, suggests an unsympathetic attitude to reckless imbibing.
However just because she renders such images does not by itself necessarily imply criticism. She might just see it as part of the inevitable process of youth’s growing up and educating itself. She may even think it is a good thing to publicly experiment with altered bodily and mental states, and want to encourage it. (A provocative oppositional sensibility - even though she is not known as a contrarian).
She might even be disdainful of ‘responsible’ finger-wagging and want simply to render ‘the world’ as it is, a state of affairs she is not set on changing but which provides interesting images for a painter to deal with, and which stimulate imaginative viewers into talking about the detectable craft qualities within the work. An excuse for showcasing the pleasurable manual impulses behind its creation.
Te Whare Hera Wellington International Artist Residency
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