Nuneaton Art Gallery, 2017/18
This exhibition by Christian Mieves and Euripides Altintzoglou set out to explore the strained relationship of images to objects through two seemingly diverse means: photography and painting.
The two artistic disciplines’ relationship to the external world has been traditionally perceived in complex and sometimes contested perspectives. Abstraction and figuration are commonly attributed as intrinsic to painting and photography accordingly, with each discipline advancing a divergent approach to the image. This exhibition explored the photographic and painted sign through abstraction and subtraction in order to overcome the traditional divisions between figuration and abstraction. In other words, the method of the proposed dialogue is fundamentally oscillatory: the included works move towards and away from representational veracity in order to reverse the conservative modernist tension between form and sign.
The antagonistic character of painting and photography seems less valid today. As Bois has argued, painting has already reached the condition of photography, the division of labor is already ‘interiorized’ in the painter (Bois 1990, 231). The contemporary situation of photography has already impacted on painting. Recent socio-technological developments amplified the means of production and circulation of images and in return threaten the notion of the manual artistic practice. Therefore painting, similar to photography, eliminates or contests the link between trace, touch and gesture, and ‘its organic referent’ (231). If the production of meaning is to abandon previous didactic models, photographic or painterly gesture should not simply (or perhaps could never) be traced back to its referent. Rather, the referent now is an origin that allows for indeterminate destinations. In today’s variable networks the notion of a singular ‘authorship’ or personal gesture becomes more radically contested and inevitably reworked.
The exhibition disentangles the complexity of gesture in photographic and painting practices as a way for questioning the role of the sign in order to ‘dissect the gesture’. What becomes apparent in the diversity of the approaches, the sign, abstract or figurative is ruptured or disconnected. Yet, despite these complexities of the gesture in the process of artistic production (Bois reassures us in his discussion of Ryman’s paintings), ‘the thread is never cut’ (232).