To Have A Voice: GSA, 4th February – 31st March 2012


To Have A Voice collects seven painters in a fairly big group painting show, including works by Hernan Bas, Kaye Donachie, Moyna Flannigan, Chantal Joffe, Bruno Pacheco, Gideon Rubin and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. The exhibit explores contemporary figurative painting and its ability to give a fresh perspective in light of the legacy of the past. It looks at why the artists choose these particular characters to voice new perspectives, and whether there is anything new to be said through this medium given the diversity of today’s world where anyone with a camera phone can brand themselves ‘artists’.

Certainly, the artists are talented in approaching their subjects from various angles. They’re obviously aware of their own subjective interpretations, neither trying to be completely truthful, abstract, nor conceptual. However, no clear cut themes is a bit of an artsy way of saying it’s subject to your own interpretation, which means it will be a bit confusing.

To Have A Voice portrays figures that aren’t really human, but rather caricatures of humans, or even certain archetypes. Uncertain, unsettled and unresolved, reality for these figures is subjectivity. There is no time and place here, just people who aren’t really people, if it weren’t for the ability to create stories.But this is a topic which has been explored before. The GSA would talk about how painters work today and how they subvert expectations of this genre. Talented though this group of artists are, to say their art is challenging, innovative and original would be a joke. Their modernist approach is restricted to form, and to say these guys are cutting-edge is like saying that Will Ferrell is elegant. The exhibit simply feels beige. None of the pictures are memorable and the questions the exhibition raises are worth more than the actual art.

The fact that figurative painting is still around is great for contemporary art and means more diversity, which in any case is pleasing. In the case of this exhibition though, I would rather see a diamond encrusted skull and feel outraged, rather than leave and feel like I didn’t see anything at all. The art school is always worth a visit, so by all means go for the exhibition if you happen to be in the area. Just don’t go out of your way for it.

[Liv Klingert]

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