How do you capture the full range of art styles in one painting? Martin McGinn’s answer is to paint a book called ‘Art History’. This self-referential humour is prevalent in this show that features paintings of books or photographs that contain other works of art. It’s an apt choice for McGinn as he’s been painting for over 40 years and has worked in galleries as well.
Books are often sat on desks gathering dust or tucked away on a shelf and seldom read. McGinn is using this exhibition to highlight how they can be the perfect still life subject as well. Each book displays character through its frayed pages, how the light glances off it, and in its reflection seen on the surface it sits on.
Alongside the book paintings are those of famous artworks crumpled up so that the image becomes distorted or no longer visible. McGinn sees them as an ‘anti-homage’ in that he takes works that he likes yet paints them in an unflattering pose.
There’s often a personal story behind some of his works. A book is laid open on a page displaying two pieces by Damien Hirst that were both hung by McGinn during his gallery career. The Warhol book reflects on the fact that the artist once saw him at the Saatchi gallery but didn’t have the courage to go over and say hello.
By bringing often neglected biographical literature to the fore, McGinn gives us a different take on still life and takes his art in a new direction.
Martin McGinn – Volume 1 is on display in Piper Gallery, 18 Newman St, W1T 1PE until 8 February. Admission is free.