A Review of Slippage at The Post_Institute, Brixton, London

 

 
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Five years ago, Gagosian held an exhibition at Britannia Street titled The Show Is Over, a survey of twenty-eight artists addressing the supposed yet never concluded death of painting. The corpus of postmodern abstraction and contemporary gambits on show demonstrated a clear hypothesis: the increasingly discursive fabric of painting in the expanded field.

Drawing from this open legacy is the inaugural show of The Post_Institute, Slippage: Performative Utterances in Painting, an exhibition of five artists which similarly educes the hermeneutics of painting and its increasingly heterogeneous vernacular.

Housed discreetly in an ex-Christmas tree warehouse in the post-industrial units of Brixton, South London, the exhibition is the second project of the nascent Von Goetz Art – a nomadic curatorial enterprise spearheaded by the eponymous Lucy von Goetz. After the success of its first show last December, ‘The Long Count’ – a group show focused on the importance of myth and identity in art and contemporary sports – Lucy is joined by co-curator Oliver Morris Jones to strip back painting to its rawest ephemeral form. The result is an acute yet modest representation of the current relationship between abstraction, painting and the slippery visual language of contemporary art.

 
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Nowhere is this clearer than the large-scale achromatic wall work by Lucas Dupuy, a site-specific painting that exerts a subtle sovereignty in the space, delicately weaving the extensive floorplan into a fertile visual dialogue. A rich mixture of modernist odes and personal reflections on urban space and dyslexia, the domestic-come-Brutalist form of the wall is layered with an increasingly cobalt constructivism that blurs language with a minimalist phenomenology of space.

So are his smaller works on paper and canvas further evoke the form and symbolism of musical orthography. Through the use of grid-work and calligraphic pattern, Dupuy simultaneously references his background in graffiti as well as the haziness of reading with dyslexia. The parallel works, headed under the same title, Everything You Do Is A Balloon (2017), push Dupuy’s practice to its most aesthetic; a series of evanescent crosshairs that gasp across the canvas, tuned with a Photoshop precision.

 

 
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Similarly provoking a sense of digital photorealism are the paintings of Martine Poppe. Ethereal palettes of cantaloupe, sky blue and china give her cloudscapes an opal effect of dizzying beauty. Approached head on they appear emphatically flat, however, glimpsed from an angle they acquire a pearlescent sheen, revealing a meticulously uniform pattern of crested brushstrokes, a style not unlike the rich impasto of Erich Heckel’s Hafenbahn im Winter (1906) or the subtle dynamism of Gerhard Richter’s Grau (Grey) (1970), presented here with an eerie depthlessness, accursed to the logic of a screen.

Sparsed throughout the exhibition are a handful of Poppe’s sculptural works: photographic prints dipped in resin and moulded into ‘Tumbleweed’ balls. In contrast to their predominantly wall-hung surroundings the various tumbleweeds are an aphoristic expression of the contemporary materiality of images – a sentiment echoed in her choice to lay bare the support frame of her paintings, an art-historical quip reminiscent of Jasper John’s two balls or Fontana’s infamous slice, albeit with a wholly contemporary manifestation; a technique similar to the transparent canvas used in Antoine Langenieux’s ‘Assemblage’ paintings – images somewhat indicative of their corollary Instagram feeds and tap screens.

 

 
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The only other sculpture on show belongs to artist Mike Ballard. A toxic green form of repurposed hoarding and timber, laced with splatters and trims of violet – a minimalist icon similar to those of Micheal Dean, evoking the analogous palette of Nike’s electric green sportswear, a reconfiguration of inner-urban fashion through a nascent post-industrial lens. Described by Ben Tuffnell as “a kind of illegible urban language”, the work reflects on the aesthetics of graffiti, the city and their contingent symbiotic fabric – a matrix similarly explored by contemporaries such as Ralph Hunter-Menzies, Kristian Touborg or David Von Bahr.

Ballard’s 2-D works elicit the same territories of urban aesthetics – their mixture of industrial grit, photocopy toner and raw abstraction juxtaposed to the surrounding works by Konrad Wyrebek and Ry David Bradley, two artists that, in contrast, draw explicitly from the online world.

The former, Wyrebeck, creates large multi-media paintings of corrupted .jpeg files – a series titled ‘Data Error’ – which bounce between net-native nostalgia and ecological anxiety. Whilst the latter, Bradley, uses digital brushes to c&p once-oblique images into wonderfully abstract compositions of artificial flora. These echo the kitsch chic of post-internet tropes that endlessly circulate from image board to image board.

Nevertheless, The Post_Institute’s inaugural show engrains itself within a distinct temporality. The proximate closure of the building itself – no doubt demolished and redeveloped into a series of luxury apartments – places the show within an odd liminal space.

 

 
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Caught between the shifting aesthetics of IRL and URL, public and private, intention and interpretation, the five artists displayed provide a succinct survey of the slippery nature of painting’s visual semantics; to quote the figure behind the exhibition’s sub-titular locution, JL Austin: “Faced with the nonsense question ‘What is the meaning of a word?’, and perhaps recognising it to be nonsense, we are nevertheless not inclined to give it up.” The same can be said of course, of painting, art, or culture per se. An endeavour that The Post_Institute seems healthily unafraid in confronting, and in this case, is successfully negotiated through both diverse and intimate terms. 

Written by Charlie Mills, a Contributor to Arteviste