Connor Cullinan at Obert Contemporary
We do our best to post cultural, entertainment and artistic events that bring vibrancy and value to your free time. Quality. So believe us when we say, lovers of art, get to the Obert Contemporary in the next two weeks for…..: connor cullinan: carne vale.
14-30 august 2008.
obert contemporary is pleased to present ‘carne vale’ by connor cullinan from 14-30 august 2008. michael smith, the managing editor of artthrob, has written the following review of cullinan’s latest exhibition: ‘making a painting is usually less like building up a whole from a series of base units as much as it is about throwing everything you know and everything you’ve seen at a surface: layering, praying, falling apart and then layering some more. connor cullinan’s works quietly challenge this impulse. their evolution seems almost sculptural, in that the final image is achieved exactly through a process of unit-based construction, with lines, diamond shapes, rectangles and elements of pattern. the systematic process the works require for their production engenders a contemplative reading of their aesthetics and ideas. they ask the viewer for time and consideration rather than a gut response. in fact, the trope of ‘system’ underscores all of cullinan’s images: their grids, matrices and repetitions reverberate with a sense of some sort of metaphysical pattern or design. yet frequently the images rendered within these systems pull against them, and in a cautionary tone seem to speculate about how far from this order humanity has strayed.
cullinan frequently works from media images, newspaper and magazine pictures. these operate as starting points for his exploration of ideas that fit into his conceptual framework. this is true of all ten of the paintings in the show ‘Carne Vale’. the show’s content addresses this notion of ‘carne vale’, an italian phrase for ‘farewell to flesh’. in contemporary english the phrase has morphed into ‘carnival’, but cullinan’s works refer to its designation as a pre-lenten festival during which indulgence is tolerated in preparation for lent’s asceticism. he works with the idea that the current social climate of excess and self-indulgence is a signal of future limitations on these things, as if humanity is playing out an ancient cycle of feast and famine on a grand scale. his formal approach thus seems entirely appropriate for this conceptual terrain, eschewing as it does painterly excess and surplus gestures. possession is a case in point: the picture of a man with arms raised, crying out, is composed of a series of jagged striations which recall a disturbed bridget riley canvas. yet even in this, the show’s most immediately emotive image, violence is muted by methodical construction.
in ‘host’, a trio consume cuts of meat in a meal which, by cullinan’s hand, is nearer to a barbaric ritual. a soutine-esque butchered carcass hovers in the foreground, the lines of its exposed ribs echoed in the strong parallels of the room and dinner table. the inclusion of wine directly suggests the flesh and blood of the christian holy communion. cullinan thus questions the ethics of animal sacrifice for any purpose, especially religious. this concept is carried through into ‘sacrum’, a work which shows an elderly man bearing a sacrificial calf on his shoulders. diffused into engraving-style linear values, the bodies of the man and the calf appear energised, but radiating in different directions. the artist speaks of an interest in hybridizing op art with figuration. in doing so, he deliberately blurs the parameters of each, creating a fresh visual language. as such, ‘sacrum’ speaks eloquently of opposing impulses and their points of conflict. ‘suspect’ is a painting typically based on a newspaper photograph. the photograph was of a man just released from prison in the western cape, after charges of murdering a young girl were dropped. cullinan thought the portrait looked like that of a vampire. without the aid of a computer, he disturbs the image in a jagged yet regular fashion, as if a shock wave had passed through it. reduced to hard-edged greyscale, and stylistically approaching illustration, the work nonetheless not only retains the power of the original image, but somehow accrues more.
arguably, the pinnacle work on show is ‘seizure’, a nightmarish painting of a young girl being abducted by a middle-aged couple. again toying with a hard-edged illustrational style, the image is similarly disrupted, this time by horizontal striations. the scene seems to encapsulate many of carne vale’s themes: predatory behaviour, loss of safety and the downside of greed and instant gratification.
cullinan’s practice is one of quiet, contemplative painting. making works that straddle the stylistic fields of art, design and illustration, he asks pertinent social questions of a global culture in upheaval’.
carne vale (farewell to flesh, in italian) comments on humans’ predatory behaviour in their pursuit of carnal pleasure. the title refers to the pre-lenten celebration, carnival, characterised by self-indulgence. the exhibition explores humans’ current excessive behaviour – from sexual perversion to voracious consumption – and suggests it is fuelled by a sense of future limits. this exhibition features ten variously scaled acrylic on canvas works and follows cullinan’s acclaimed river of january staged at obert contemporary in 2007.
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