It was the reductivist Alan Hathaway, whose ‘Where Have All The Good Times Gone?’ (2019) currently occupies Pineapple Black’s 24/7 Window Gallery, that made me think about contemporary painting differently. He told me how much his non-objective, space-specific works are influenced by paintings, something that can be said about the development of many other contemporary artworks. Almost everything starts in 2D; crayon on paper, a sketch on a cigarette packet or a clumsy watercolour in GCSE art. Painting, as in gallery-standard painting, is this creative instinct taken to its logical end point. Everything after can be seen as merely multi-dimensional painting.
Mountain Size occupies the main gallery at Pineapple Black in Middlesbrough, curated by Contemporary British Painting member Gordon Dalton and featuring other artists from the group. Dalton’s all-encompassing approach to styles and techniques is reflected in his own ‘I Said Something I Did Not Mean To Say’ (2019), which takes centre stage in terms of scale, and extends to the range of artworks that fully explore the theme of landscape, whether directly or more abstractly.
Freya Purdue’s ‘Red & Yellow Sulphur’ (2019) is a meditation on the seasons, testing the relationship between landscape and the horizon with views from far above, wherein fields, lakes and fence lines become a kind of patchwork. ‘Skumtimmin’ (2017) by Joe Paker is even more abstract, incorporating the wider frame into the work in a meta-gesture. His fragmented landscape is a nod to both modern and postmodern styles, the title of the piece reflecting its shattered aesthetic. Sean Williams’ ‘Fear Loves This Place’ (2019) explores the unease of suburban landscaping, where the juxtaposition of golf course and houses is unsettling. After all, what is a modern housing estate without a golf course?
The striking ‘Everything I’ve Had But Couldn’t Keep’ (2012) by Paula MacArthur looks initially like a diamond refracting light and is paradoxically absorbing. Other pieces are designed to test our perception of both painting and landscape: Mandy Payn’s ‘Church House’ (2019) at first looks like a Eugene Schlumberger photograph until you realise it is actually oil on marble; ‘Luna House’ (year unknown) by Cara Narhaul and ‘Orange Paint Job’ (2012) by Pen Dalton are collages of different perspectives and colours, respectively; Matthew Krishnau’s ‘Church Tower and Field’ (2019) shift the horizon line from the accepted central plane; and Sam Douglass’s ‘Lofoten Trip’ (2018) is so dark, moody and shadowy as to turn day into night.
Mountain Size, Pineapple Black, Middlesbrough, 1 November 2019 – 30 November 2019. The exhibition is part of Conversations in Painting: Fiesta MK2, a multi-venue painting festival across Middlesbrough that connects artists from across the Tees Valley with a broader UK and international network.
Steve Spithray is a writer based in Middlesbrough