The Kick Ass Painting Show

Fontanelle_Install_Front room

Since??Paul Delaroche???s??1839??exclamation??that?????from today painting is dead!?????painting??has had to fight for our attention.??As if trying to??restore??painting to the top of the??ladder this??exhibition is??titled:??The Kick Ass Painting Show.??Co-curated by??Brigid Noone and??Ben Leslie the show??includes??an ambitious??44 artworks by??24 mostly Adelaide-based painters.

Calling??itself ???kick ass?????sets the??bar; they???re ???fighting words???.??Proclaiming??greatness??but does??it deliver???To give the show such a badass title the curators had to come in strong,??taking??painting (or what we understand as??painting) to??its??extremes.??There are??moments??of brilliance??but they are??few and far between.??Works by James Dodd, Ros Matson, Sam Songailo and Sam Howie show us??that painting is not a dried up?????dead!?????practice. By??pushing??the limits,??these??artists?????paintings are?????out-there???, vigorous,??and??technically??attuned.

Dodd???s??ceiling??graffiti??paintings??dotted throughout??The Kick Ass Painting Show??and??his??Bike Painting Machine are??fun,??and??free??from??the??discourse of?????art speak???, which the curators seem keen to avoid.??The??curators explain their intent??of the?????paintings to create a resonant installation??? through??considered??placement.??Dodd???s??work does??this by presenting work that is??purpose-built for an unconventional??location.

Ros Matson, 'Untitled', 2012, acrylic on canvas.
Ros Matson, ‘Untitled’, 2012, acrylic on canvas.

Another highlight was??the immense canvases by??Matson –Untitled??(2012) and??My Space??(2009). The fluorescent palette??of Dodd???s works are??mimicked in??the spectacularly beautiful abstract colour field of Matson???s Untitled??painting that??drew??the viewer closer.??Songailo???s (Extended Version)??(2012)??consists of a??mesmerising geometric??pattern??of black and fluorescent??colours. It has been said that??people?????lose themselves??? in his work.

Making??the most sense??in this exhibition is Sam Howie???s Untitled??(2012).??Composed of 30??square boards??that make one??painting,??with??a??textural surface??of??built??up enamel paint ?????it is??a??pleasure to view from every angle.??Howie is truly a painter???s painter. The??success of this painting and??Dodd???s??ceiling work is that??both works ask??for more??than??is??traditionally expected??from??the??viewer. For me, these works achieve??the?????cool factor??? that I had been anticipating from??The Kick Ass Painting Show.

Aside from these highlights,??I couldn???t help??but wonder if the curators were serving??other??interests??in their selections.??I felt myself questioning inclusions??of paintings that weren???t fully resolved??or didn???t fit the brief of ???kick-ass?????only to find out that??a number of??these artists??are??studio tenants??at Fontanelle.

For??The Kick Ass Painting Show to fulfill its title it needed more??extreme measures.??One option would??be??to select??three awesome??painters??and??let??them??go??nuts,??unleashing their artwork on the ceiling, walls and floor.??Hinting at this are??Dodd???s??ceiling panels in psychedelic tones??Pacific Riff (reprise)??(2012).??Another possibility??would be a gallery hang of paintings??block mounted on??the??walls??to create an overwhelming visual bombardment of??works. Instead what we??have is??a show that sits??tentatively between??extremes.

To??be?????kick-ass??? you can???t really hold back. In many ways the curators did??let loose, including??found??art??and producing??an??unconventional hang by apparently taking to heart Martin Kippenberger???s challenge that ???simply to hang a painting on the wall and say that it???s art is dreadful. The whole network is important!???

The issue is that these placements although quite playful often attach??readings??to??works??that the artist may not have intended. At times??it seems??as if the??curators were overtly prescriptive??instead of letting the work speak for itself.??This is evident in the??placement??of Thom Buchanan???s??Industrious Sinners, Lazy Saints. Buchanan???s??compositions??of??the built environment??pride themselves on their perfect perspective. As with all perspective-driven??work the composition??lines??are imperative to the overall immersive??effect.??Yet this single canvas??was??hidden in a??corner,??at the bottom??of the wall, just above the skirting board,??in the back room. This??not only makes??it difficult to view the work, it also alters??the??perspective lines within the??composition putting a new reading on??the??work??that goes??against the artists??? intention.??Is this??the??role of the curator?

A??saving grace is that when??the gallery is viewed as a whole it starts??to come together, like the way Monet???s paintings need??to be viewed from a distance to create a complete picture.??The space then??begins??to resemble??a painting with moments of quiet and noise, colour relationships and stylistic pairings, which makes more sense than a themed exhibition on ???kick-ass??? painting.??Perhaps it??should have been called??Painters Painting Paintings??and??is better seen as??curators being artists creating??one painting from many paintings, not curating??an exhibition from a selection of work to a certain theme. Let???s say what??we??mean and mean what??we??say.

Commissioned art review of??The Kick Ass Painting Show??at??Fontanelle, Adelaide,??24??May ??? 30 June 2012 written for??Artlink Magazine??Vol 32 no.3, 2013.