Tate Britain Assesses The State Of Painting Now

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 59 months ago
Tate Britain Assesses The State Of Painting Now
Gillian Carnegie, Prince 2011–12 
The artist, courtesy Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne
Gillian Carnegie, Prince 2011–12 The artist, courtesy Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne
Simon Ling, Untitled 2012
Courtesy greengrassi, London
Simon Ling, Untitled 2012 Courtesy greengrassi, London
Catherine Story, Lovelock (I) 2010
Private collection, London
Catherine Story, Lovelock (I) 2010 Private collection, London
Lucy McKenzie, Quodlibet XXII (Nazism) 2012 
Private collection, Belgium
Lucy McKenzie, Quodlibet XXII (Nazism) 2012 Private collection, Belgium
Tomma Abts, Zebe 2010
Tate
Tomma Abts, Zebe 2010 Tate

With contemporary art using lots of different mediums from video art to toy soldiers, it's easy to believe that traditional painting is a thing of the past. In fact it's actually primed for a resurgence and the number of emerging and university artists who are going back to painting is on the up.

Tate Britain has put on a show featuring five artists who it thinks captures the state of painting in Britain right now. It's a fantastically curated show with the works spaced out, each artist given a room to themselves and minimal labelling allowing visitors to simply explore the works in their own way. So far, so good.

The issue with this exhibition lies in the choice of the five artists. The works of Tomma Abts and Catherine Story feel very traditional and seem to draw too much on paintings from 50 years ago, while Simon Ling's deliberately nondescript landscapes is a style that would probably be better suited to photography.

Lucy McKenzie's work of architectural drawings on pin boards and a seemingly unfinished sculpture in the middle of the room are an interesting insight into the creative process but give the sense of building to something that never quite gets there.

Gillian Carnegie is arguably the most traditional painter here yet her work is the most interesting. Her representational works of flowers and a cat on the stairs all painted in the half light of dawn create the sense of being on the verge of existence, as if they could quite easily melt back into the darkness.

The curation and concept of this exhibition is fantastic and we wish other large institutions would take gambles on show like this; it's just the choice of painters that lets it down.  It all feels too traditional and seems to cement painting as the medium of the past, rather than highlighting the truth that it's still a dynamic and vibrant medium that continues to inspire.

Painting Now: five contemporary artists is on at Tate Britain, Millbank, until 9 February. Tickets are £10 for adults, concessions available.

Also on at Tate Britain is the history of Art under Attack and the sculptures of Alison Wilding.

Last Updated 17 November 2013