As usual, these are notes on what I: Liked; Wasn’t sure about, and; Didn’t Like. Totally subjective, personal, subject to change, etc.
Painters’ Painters at Saatchi Gallery
Liked: seeing the whole gallery devoted to recent painting, each room dedicated to one painter represented by several works – plus free entry is nice. No curatorial theme forced onto the work, just a variety of paintings made over the last twenty years, reflecting Saatchi’s taste. I was surprised to find that my favourite room was Richard Aldrich’s, whose work is in many ways the least similar to my recent favourites (Rauch, Schutz, Condo, etc.). The combination of the works in Aldrich’s room gave me the greatest sense of possibility in what a painting can be and do. I’ve seen his work in reproduction and didn’t get much from it, but in reality I felt it had a lot of presence. The stripped-back-ness was a welcome change in this show of otherwise very full canvases, so I don’t know if I’d feel the same about the work under different circumstances.
Wasn’t sure about: the number of large paintings, many over 2 metres wide. I like large paintings, but with so many of similar scale it started to feel standard (another reason why Aldrich’s variety of canvas sizes and supports was refreshing). I also got fatigued with the preponderance of black outlines in the work of Raffi Kalenderian, Ansel Krut and Bjarne Melgaard, but any one of them in isolation probably wouldn’t have had that effect. I felt that some of the paintings (not all) were rather polite, or comfortable, or safe; either tapping primitivism on a spectacular scale or tastefully blending twentieth-century styles in a way that guarantees to produce something that looks like modern painting without any jolt of unfamiliarity. I think I prefer paintings that are willing to be more difficult or ungainly, that risk being unwanted, or ugly, or just really bad. I really respect the elegance that some of these painters have achieved, but today, for some reason, I didn’t have an appetite for it.
Didn’t like: There was nothing I positively disliked, but …
I was initially disappointed on leaving. I assumed that in a whole show of big figurative painterly painting (chosen by showman Saatchi) I would find at least one new thing to excite me, and I didn’t. Except I did in Aldrich, just not in a way that I’m used to, nor that meets the criteria I thought were important to me. Probably that’s a great thing, because it’s opened my mind considerably about what I want from painting, including my own.