The MoMa state of painting show The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World, which I wrote about recently, has led to further thoughts about the questions it poses about the future of painting — or whether it has a future at all? Does all the sampling and mixing of atemporal historical and cultural references by those l7 predominantly mid-career artists shown at MoMA represent the last sad chapter in painting, its dying fall?
For one answer, I turned to
, a British artist whose work I first saw in a show curated by Kay Saatchi called ANTICIPATION, culled from 2008 diploma shows. At the time, I thought Caramazza’s work-in-progress installation piece of tiny postcard paintings — seemingly exact evocations of the work of past artists which built up into a tsunami of brilliantly executed references across the whole history of art — was simply outstanding, both in concept and in its painterly execution. It forced me to look again at works so familiar I had started not to look at them properly at all. I wanted to buy the whole installation there and then but he wouldn’t sell it to me because he was still adding to it. It has haunted me ever since; a classic ‘If only’ moment.
After a sell-out show, The Flutes of Impossible Shepherds, at the Hales Gallery, Caramazza seemed to be operating under the art world radar until just before last Christmas when he cropped up again, this time at Lychee One, an interesting gallery in London’s East End.
Still pursuing his take on the history of figurative art, Caramazza has moved from postcard-sized canvases as the platform for paint to trompe l’oeil fragments which are already painted deconstructions of portions of historic paintings. Fragments from a Forest Floor (see main image at top), for instance, takes a section of a painting by Melchior de Hondecoeter of an imaginary forest floor; Caramazza folds and cuts sections of it he has already painted on paper and then makes a painting of all the fragments. ‘A lot of what I work on is how we look at cultural concepts,’ he explained.
This same deceptive approach is applied to paintings of auction catalogue pages, complete with their explanatory text, such as Pennies from Heaven (above), or sections of seemingly randomly painted walls, interventions on 1950’s Thompson & Morgan seed catalogues, even paintings of blank canvases and stitched pieces of woven thread. Does paint have any kind of future, I asked him. ‘I don’t take too much notice of that kind of debate,’ Caramazza replied. ‘Paint is always under scrutiny.’ And still, clearly, presents infinite possibilities.
New work will be shown at the Lychee Gallery stand at Art l5 this May. I urge you to go and see this subtle and beautiful work — or contact Filippo Caramazza directly through his website.
I must just mention a hi-tech form of narcissism in the art world — the art selfie. Go to the Louvre, stand as near as you can get to the Mona Lisa (difficult with all those tick-the-box tourists) and smile. Not exactly what Leonardo had in mind, is it? There’s a book out with examples of this awful fad from Editions Jean Boite in Paris. Whatever next? Whatever next is that museum selfies are beginning to be banned. The venerable Smithsonian led the way, now the Palace of Versailles has followed suit — so no more pretending to be Marie Antoinette, please Madame!