Other people’s pictures

Art Life , Reviews Nov 22, 2010 1 Comment

Welcome our newest contributor Tristian Koenig as he joins TEAM Art Life as our roving editor-at-large with this review of James Lynch’s latest show at Uplands…

James Lynch is well known for a practice of pan-subjective pictorialism that includes painting, drawing and animation. Often articulated through minimal tableaux, his work is both enigmatic and quotidian. His current exhibition Other People’s Pictures at Uplands Gallery is no exception. The title of the exhibition is somewhat literal, but basically explains the working premise of the show: Lynch asked friends to provide him with a written description of their favorite artwork, which he would subsequently paint. As far as I’m aware, no extraneous information was given, such as the artist’s name, title of the work and so on, which would be suggestive of an aesthetic starting point. The resulting imagery; four medium-sized canvases exhibited alongside charred furniture, clearly show why Lynch is one of the foremost painters of his generation.

James Lynch, Rob’s Picture, 2010. Oil on canvas, 91x107cms.

Belying the sparse installation, a formal and conceptual rigor pervades Lynch’s paintings. In the initial experience of looking at works such as Nadine’s Picture and Rob’s Picture, your eyes hover on the surface of the picture plane, unconsciously tracing the rhythms of form and color in each composition. After interrogating this act and consciously directing one’s vision, the profound spatial sophistication of the works becomes engrossingly apparent, effectively sucking you in to the claustrophobic and non-Cartesian room-like space of each painting. As Lynch uses small cuts and models to construct the compositions of his paintings this isn’t so surprising. In Sam’s Picture you can clearly see the side of a crate used as the ground for the composition, while the free-floating cut out forms appear supported by balsa wood or ice-cream stick-like scaffolding. The linear quality of the support structures is also a clever conceptual foil, linking the disparate pictorial elements of each painting. The associations invite speculation, such as in Gwyn’s Picture, in which a pleasant cacophony of imagery coalesce in a diagram or matrix of uncertain meaning.

James Lynch, Nadine’s Picture, 2010. Oil on canvas, 71x91cms.

Other People’s Pictures isn’t Lynch’s first foray in to what could be inaccurately called “collaborative practice”. As a founding member of the collaborative artists’ group DAMP and co-initiator of the artist’s book publisher RUBIK, Lynch has been at the forefront of relational-based practice in this country, well before the words ‘art’ and ‘conviviality’ were slung together. Whereas Lynch has previously used other people’s dreams in which he features as an entry point to making work; effectively interpreting the interrogating of his subjectivity by another, Other People’s Pictures presents Lynch in a different light. Rather than using inter-subjective dialogue as a foundation, the current exhibition sees Lynch exploring ‘the self’ of others, which in so imagining presents the artist with the opportunity to extend himself, through quiet and humbler painterly musings.

James Lynch
Other People’s Pictures
Uplands Gallery
4th – 27th November, 2010

Andrew Frost

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