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From: Schizoid hack
Date: 21 Sep 2010
Time: 11:30:56 -0500
While the more conceptual artists were exploring the possibility of figuration, the more traditional adherents of the subject were playing with the potential of the conceptual. This is not surprising as artists spend a lot of time playing with materials. It would be surprising if artists as savvy and competent as Anthony Green, an older Royal Academician, was not exploring the toy chest of his more conceptual artistic peers like Tracey Emin. Green’s contribution to the Threadneedle exhibition shows a figurative artist comfortable with the painterly tools of his trade and exploring the potential of more sculptural possibilities. It, like many of the entries in the show, illustrates the struggle between painting and sculpture first explored when artists like Ellsworth Kelly started shaping their canvases and exploring the potential of two versus three-dimensional work. Sculptors are not excluded from this exhibition and Deborah van der Beek with her imposing large centaur sculpture, composed seemingly of an agglomeration of materials, and the wall piece of faceless hoodies, a work by Janette Harris made of discarded plastic Tesco bags, flirt with new materials. Tim Shaw’s Tank on fire, a mysterious black sculpture, owes more than a passing glance to the vitrine works of the Chapman Brothers and is none the worse for it. The real potential of a prize for figuration would be the ability to encourage artists to be proud of their involvement with a medium that has recently been perceived as irrelevant and old fashioned. The starting point might well be to accept the increasing merging together of the formerly disparate groups of artists. It should not have been surprising to have a painter, Gillian Carnegie, appear as a finalist for the Turner Prize in 2005. She was merely following in the footsteps of Jenny Saville who, with her explorations of her own body seen in ‘Sensation’ and later in the Saatchi Collection, proved that there were new ways of depicting the female form. There are several painters in this exhibition also experimenting with new forms of portraiture and scale, not least among them the veteran artist Tai-Shan Schierenberg and Eloiza Mills with her intricately detailed miniature portraits on copper. So is a cultural divide necessary or even relevant any more? While the bastions of the conceptual move ever closer to the figurative and the more traditional artists move closer to the conceptual, a more consensual approach with more diverse exhibitions becomes ever more relevant. It will be interesting to see the evolution of this prize over the years ahead. Hopefully there will be more and more artists entering into the arena of figuration from both sides of this narrowing cultural divide.