The exhibition title “June: A Painting Show” at Sadie Coles HQ in London cleverly conceals the real subject, which is how contemporary artists from around the world portray people at work, at play, in threatening environments or in provocative situations, in a wide variety of colourful, geometric and imaginary settings, some quite surreal and some linking back to their own cultures. In many, the human form floats in an out of another world with hints of artists such as Dali, as in the word of Japanese artist Yamashita Kikuji and German artist Jana Euler.
The paintings range from the 1980’s through to 2015 with new work including paintings by Jonathan Gardner from the US creating illusionary modern interiors, Helen Johnson from Australia with echos of the history of Australia and Nicole Eisenman from France bringing toy characters to life.
Linking back to their own cultures, Rodel Tapaya from the Phillippines is inspired by folk narratives while Hayv Kahraman’s work is rooted in Persian miniatures and calligraphy from her native Baghdad.
British artist Ryan Mosley describes his theatrical characters as if performing on a stage and American artist Mernet Larsen’s calm controlled geometric work links with origami and with computer graphics. Barbara Rossi uses crisp flowing graphics with double meanings while, in complete contrast, Pieter Schoolwerth’s flowing abstract figures are alive and ready to jump out of the painting.
This collection of work shows how artists, in many different ways, combine figurative and abstract art to delve deep into our modern world and raise questions that often remain unanswered.
Peter Griffith’s work has a related theme and Maddox Arts has its third solo show of his work “I am only the head of those that go” which also explores the interconnection between figurative and abstract images.
“It was the great English poet William Blake who declared that ‘Without Contraries there is no progression’; and it is hard to imagine a better account of the painting of Peter Griffin. This is a painter whose canvases are often divided; a determinedly contemporary artist intrigued by the past whose recent works are stamped by the tension between inside and outside an artist preoccupied by revelation and concealment…Their meaning is to be read from a complex and unending dialogue between the elements that has no closure. The present cannot unwrap the past but nor can it stop trying to do so…Without contraries there is no progression, as Blake so rightly said” (Philip Dodd)
“With Peter Griffin’s paintings it is possible to experience a contrast to, or even a bulwark against, the information societies rapid undermining of our concepts of space and it’s trivialization of the multiple layers of time and meaning preserved in art and history, This is precisely one of the elements we are made aware of in viewing Griffin’s paintings. In his novel “Slowness Milan Kundera offers a playful and critical account of what happens in and to a society when everything takes place with escalating speed. The end result is that forgetting wins over remembering and that seeming becomes more important than being. Furthermore, it has always been important for Griffin to create works that are also places of contemplation. The dialogue between past and present and the interplay between innovation and tradition in art and culture, have always been important to him”. (Else Marie Bukdahl)
Peter Griffin (born 1947) has lived life to the full. Born into a coal mining community in the north of England, his early career included a number of factory jobs, playing rugby league and hitchhiking around Europe while attending night school, art college and achieving a place on at the Royal College of Art in London, from which he was awarded the Prix de Rome scholarship, enabling him to live and work in Rome for two years. While at the Royal Academy, he worked with the Surrealist painter Roberta Matta and began to experiment with abstraction and reality in painting. He was been involved in the establishment of the Cyprus College of Art, was artist in residence at the University of New South Wales, was invited to create an exhibition in Buenos Aires to mark the 25th anniversary of the death of the poet Pablo Neruda and was commissioned by the Ortega y Gasset foundation in Madrid to create an exhibition for the centenary of the Spanish philosopher. In working with writers, Griffin has sought to find the relationship between his ideas and those of the writers and this can be seen in his work.
Both exhibitions have works which are deep with meaning, using figurative and abstract work to explore what it means to be alive in the 21st century.