The veil of seduction

24 September 2006 | , , ,

From the John Moores 24 Exhibition of contemporary painting 2006, at Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool:

Jeff McMillan, The Seducer, Oil on found painting, 51 x 61.5cm, 2005

Artist Statement

For many years I have collected second-hand oil paintings from boot sales and thrift shops. These form a curious compendium of subjects and styles. It’s only in the last couple of years that this collection has made its way into my studio to become a material part of the work.

‘The Seducer’ was made by submerging a found painting on canvas into a large container of yellow oil paint. My intention was to perform the simplest of actions, a minimal edit that might create ambiguity.

In this way I want to acknowledge the cannibalistic perversity of making a painting at this nihilistic point in history while at the same time using this viscous, highly chromatic medium to attempt to create a thing of beauty.

Elaine Brown, Lace and snake’s skin, Oil on gesso on boards, 46 x 30cm, 2005

Artist Statement

My paintings fall into the genre of still life. I am interested in the way an object can become resonant with meaning. The desire to fix the ephemeral nature of memories and emotional attachments underlies the work. Drawn to things which are inherently symbolic – personally or collectively – painting presents the place where, intuitively and deliberately, through assembly and depiction, I can manipulate their interpretations and create a scenario.

The representation of time and involvement through the process of making, visually apparent in painting and drawing, makes an intimate connection between the viewer, the artist and the object. The end point isn’t fixed at the start of each painting but through the process of rendering, of doing and undoing, the final image emerges. The paintings are not an illustration of a thought but rather part of an ongoing dialogue.

‘Lace and Snake‚Äôs Skin’ is a diptych although each panel could exist alone. Seen together they are unified by the gaze of the viewer. I have kept both objects for some years – placed in similar territories there are many parallels and polarities that draw them together and pull them apart.

I see, experience and recognize recognize seduction in the second one of these artworks, even though the first painting, according to its title and the artist’s statement, deals with the seducer explicitly. I have been reading about art and the act on unveiling and wonder whether McMillan’s painting deals with the act-game of hidding and revealing in a direct way: a found painting is dipped in yellow oil pain, covering most of it; the painting is them, for all I can see, exhibited upside down. The viewer is faced with a series of obstacles that are tangible, identifiable.

Elaine Brown’s dyptich, however, is more subtle. The relationshp between the two paintings is not clear and neither is the arrangement of the polymorphous objects she chose (lace and snake skin). Like a Rorschach inkblot test, they could be read in a veriety of ways. I saw breats in the first one, that first and foremost object of desire, and the fact that the painting depicted lace only helped to reinforced by mental image. The second one didn’t lend itself to any specific object but was imbued with a sense of danger, something self-destructive. A snake embodying the devil was the first seducer.

In both of them, whether explicit or not, there is a veil drawn, a veil waiting to be lifted by the viewer. But these two veils are very different. Could it be that male and female seductions are different?

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