Elizabeth McIntosh, Monique Mouton, Silke Otto-Knapp

26 May — 8 July, 2017

Paint­ing is not a prob­lem. It has been with us, car­ried along with church and state, pri­vate and pub­lic cap­i­tal, and the devel­op­ment of indus­tri­al process­es. It has been ready­made for some time. Sus­pend­ed pig­ments are fab­ri­cat­ed and squeezed into tubu­lar pack­ag­ing, woven can­vas pulled from looms of mass pro­duc­tion, thin wood sheet lay­ered, glued and heat­ed togeth­er to form a rigid sub­strate for build­ing. Paint­ing has pro­duc­tion val­ue and the mate­ri­als are famil­iar.


We remem­ber that this exhi­bi­tion real­ly began with dis­cus­sions around the first Hands Arms paint­ing of Elizabeth’s, which she paint­ed dur­ing the lat­ter weeks of the 2016 US elec­tion. There was a process of inter­pret­ing the paint­ing, mak­ing sym­bol­ic ref­er­ences, under­stand­ing the arms and the rope, the colour deci­sions and how the black leaked through. How the arms appeared to be male? How the rope/switch/branch/bar of the con­nect­ing black paint­ed lines were also just paint­ed lines. Reflex­ive play from sym­bol­o­gy back to the paint­ing itself. Then there was the con­sid­er­a­tion of the ground, how the objects are sus­pend­ed in front of an illu­mi­nat­ed, glow­ing back­drop.


Which then took us to the con­sid­er­a­tion of forms in front of a back­drop. We start­ed to think of a body politic and Silke’s fig­ure paint­ings, and her new work with pre­dom­i­nant­ly androg­y­nous fig­ures, drawn from the doc­u­men­ta­tion of a Viet­nam Era anti­war dance. Orig­i­nal­ly an aer­i­al view of fig­ures rest­ing, in this new paint­ing they could be tum­bling. We then shift­ed to the back­drop of the Fogo Islands in Silke’s dip­tych, where forms sus­pend­ed in space can be bod­ies or land mass­es. We are still con­sid­er­ing the unstretched inky black can­vas back­drop paint­ing of Elizabeth’s from 2013.


Then came Monique, how her paint­ings can be on the back­drop of a wall and then fall off to the floor, so to speak. How could their shift­ing scales and forms inhab­it a space, impli­cat­ing your body out of the cor­ner of an eye? Our think­ing was to move into fur­ther lay­ers of abstrac­tion, the sym­bol bro­ken down, break­ing the space of the frame and stretch­er. We note a mate­r­i­al dif­fer­ence of work­ing with wood, cut­ting it, see­ing those cuts, some inten­tion­al, some saw-deter­mined. Her frag­ments are artic­u­late objects, painter­ly and vul­ner­a­ble.


Against a present-day glob­al back­drop, paint­ing has its prob­lems. They are for­mal, social, his­tor­i­cal, con­tem­po­rary, and famil­iar prob­lems, and they are ours to nego­ti­ate and ours to con­tend with.