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There's a Ghost in my House:Paint Club at Tate Britain # 1: 1 pm Friday March 7th 2014

Is part of Contemporary Painting's function to enact a séance with painters of the past, with Painting’s history and with collective memory?
Three artists discuss their relationship with particular paintings from the new Tate Britain displays. This event addressed the issue of what kind of working relationship contemporary artists might hope to have with the paintings (both historical and recent) in a ‘Museum’ collection. Does new painting, to gain significance, always have to genuflect to art of the past?

See Tate Event listing

Read about the speakers and their choices from the Tate Collection

'There's a Ghost in my House'

View the whole event online

This was the first of two Paint Club events at Tate Britain. The second was on Friday April 25th 2014:
Painting as Document featuring Clare Woods and Barry Schwabsky

 The speakers:

Andrew Cranston
                'Painterly problems'
Andrew Cranston
Painterly problems 2011
Oil on board
32cm x 38cm

Andrew Cranston is a painter based in Glasgow and a lecturer at Gray's School of Art, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen. His paintings often allude to rooms from literature, such as the bedroom of Gregor Samsa, the hapless travelling salesman who transforms into an insect in Kafka's Metamorphosis. His recent exhibition at Hawick museum in Scotland tells the story of a house in the grounds of the museum, owned by his grandparents and demolished in the 1950s. Based around a painting of the house from memory by his uncle, the artist compiled his own paintings, a giant doll’s house, a short film and photographs.

Walter Sickert is one of the great image-makers and one of Painting's most unusual colourists. I think of him, especially in his early work, as a sort of psychological Impressionist with a feeling for the dark rather than the light. An inverted Monet and yet so much more than "just an eye". His nocturnal, close-toned palette acknowledges the eye's ability to adjust to low light, to discern shape and figure in the peripheral and hidden; and this artist had a peculiar ability to penetrate the threatening shadows of Victorian London.

His painting of 'Minnie Cunningham at the Old Bedford' gives us the subtle nuances of observation, but with the mysterious, haunting quality of a memory or dream. Minnie is a Red Riding Hood figure who seems to "hover through the filthy air", a singer rendered still and mute by the condition of painting. As she turns to the wings, her costume glowing in the crepuscular gaslight, we are allowed to take in the scene unnoticed, from the dark.

Click here to see his choice from Tate Britain's displays

Dougal McKenzie
                'The Intimacy of Roundness'
Dougal McKenzie
The Intimacy of Roundness (after Charles Morin) 2013
oil on linen
55 x 46cm

Dougal McKenzie is based in Belfast and teaches at Belfast School of Art, University of Ulster. His exhibit in the 2012 John Moores Painting Prize exhibition defied traditional categorisations of media and materials, bringing together found images and objects as well as his own painting and inviting a dialogue between the specific associations of these objects and materials with the culture and society of our time. His past works have been constructed around images invoking a wide range of historical and cultural figures including artists Edouard Manet and Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Woody Allen, Warren Beatty and Finnish runner Lasse Virén.

Kitaj was always in the picture for me, going right back to when I was mystified by his 'If not, not' (1975/6) at the Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. His commitment to the possibility of painting being about a narrating of histories (also, of reading and painting),over time has become mine also. His very late works and commentaries I have become almost obsessional about, where there is, more often than not, more canvas revealed than actual paint marks (what he termed his areas of 'White Exploit'). In its way his 'Erasmus Variations' was the beginning of it all, what he termed the first modern art that he committed.

Click here to see his choice from Tate Britain's displays

Ann-Marie James
                'A bandit, a ruffian'
Ann-Marie James
A bandit, a ruffian 2013
oil and acrylic on canvas
70 x 100 cm

Ann-Marie James completed her MA in Fine Art at Wimbledon College of Art in 2012, and held a solo show at Karsten Schubert, London in March 2013. Her paintings and drawings employ quotation as a tactic through which figurative elements can acknowledge and engage with imagery from art of the past, Operating within the existing aesthetic of a found image or object, she explores the transmutation of the beautiful into the monstrous, and back again.

John Martin's 'The Great Day of His Wrath' is bombastic, epic, and kind of ridiculous; at once arguably distasteful and undeniably brilliant. Despite the artist's original intention for the work as a tool for moral instruction, and it's relationship to the Grand Tour, in our contemporary context, it is hard not to draw comparison with the type of imagery stereotypical of the covers of science fiction or fantasy novels, heavy metal album covers and chintzy chocolate boxes - John Martin is the Michael Bay of the RA. The subject of taste as it relates to class plays an interesting role in our reading of this painting, which by implication calls to mind the argument pivotal to Pierre Bourdieu's Distinction: a social critique of the judgment of taste, the core of which is perhaps most succinctly put by Dave Hickey, who wrote "Bad taste is real taste, of course, and good taste is the residue of someone else's privilege".

Click here to see her choice from Tate Britain's displays

The event was chaired by Dr Jo Melvin, writer, curator and researcher at Chelsea College of Arts, University of the Arts London. She was recently the consultant for a major retrospective of Barry Flanagan at Tate Britain and also devised and curated the Tate exhibition of the archives of Peter Townsend, founder of Studio International.

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