LLE at The Manchester Contemporary
Old Granada Studios, Manchester
22 – 25 Sept 2016
Text by Sam Perry
Many times removed
Everything has been painted now anyway read her message from the side of the pool.
Her enclave in Santa Monica is all but surrounded by Norfolk Island pines, with a clearance where the late-afternoon sun strikes the poolside canopy.
The recipient pauses at length before replying. He briefly but vividly imagines a world in LA in which everything; every paving slab, every leaf of every palm tree, every clothes line, wine bottle, knife, fork and spoon - everything - is painted, like houses and picket fences are painted.
The colours of this entirely painted landscape are sky blues, hot pinks, traffic-cone orange and yellow, lots of yellow. The sun beats down on it, giving the paint and its colour an elastic, pliable quality.
He smiled as he imagined an expedition, the opus of his well-known spontaneous journeys to far-off places. To go to LA, to recover some of this paint from the most unlikely of objects, to peel it from the roadside boulders of Beverly Hills, as carefully and assuredly as an archaeologist.
The view fades as his immediate surroundings come back into focus. He thought about this new world in LA and the painters he knew at home in Wales. I think you’re onto something read his delayed reply.
It is as though the (art) collector lives in a house built of paintings, …They show him sights: sights of what he may possess. – John Berger
Houses built of paintings, entirely painted cities. These visions are anamorphic, congruent with the worlds shown in a little stand in Manchester’s former Granada television centre. Impervious and impossibly still, the body of paintings LLE has assembled for The Manchester Contemporary tame the unpredictability of nature’s forces in the landscape.
The elements are controlled to the extent of abstraction and silence. The liquidity of a swimming pool or the strength and pliability of palm trees is reduced to the bare form of a southern Californian landscape, like a dream imagined from magazines, postcards, printed matter. The paint is applied thickly and weightily. With a policy of detachment: of looking to far-off places, cultures and aesthetics, the painter is in a monologue with something beyond the horizon of familiarity, the painter aches to be there and is transcendentally homeless when painting.
Many times removed from their subjects, many of artists in this exhibition use media-born imagery, fashion literature or existing, (pre) enhanced digital pictures. Detachment is carried throughout the image-making and not let to drop, even in the exhibiting process. Portraits of solemnity, pulled from fashion literature and heightened in colour stare across the space to the supernormalised world they see opposite.
As Dave Hickey points out in a personal chronicle of the modern art world;
The Art Fair is a great creation, but it has happened because all of the people who should be keeping score, who should be playing defence: the critics, the dealers, the magazines, the museums, are not – there is nobody in goal.
In turn, in more recent times and via another unattended back door, empty goalposts or a lack of score-keeping, artist-led collectives are creating resourceful new usages for the six-by-four art fair booth. They are making use rather than making do of inelegant, starkly lit temporary walls, spatial limitations, the lack of electrical power points.
The curators, facilitators, so many words these days, of The Manchester Contemporary are creating a marching band of artist-led collectives, re-imagining the art fair through community-building, experimentation and license for free-reign. An ethereal hint of change is drifting through the ecosystem of the art fair.
She walks down the stairs, beside the painted blue wall, like a painting herself, and stepped out the back towards the pool.
By the time of the reply she had dozed off beneath the canopy. In a hypnagogic dream the palm and pine gave way to an abstract dome, with its only entrance way a white grated gate before a blue painted truman show horizon. You don’t see the peripheries of utopias very often, just the middle bit she thought. The vastness of the sea surrounding her, the painted cacti and the fern in the distance. She’d always imagined the peripheries of her cognitive utopia to be fraught with vulnerability. In front of her was no evidence of this, a painted truman show horizon, thick with paint.