The following grouping of important works by Cheyney Thompson offers a significant selection detailing the artist’s oeuvre. From the brushstroke, minutely controlled, to the expansive market context in which artworks are disseminated, Cheyney Thompson’s paintings, photographs, and installations investigate the contemporary landscape of invention and distribution. Thompson has made the technology, production and distribution of painting and sculpture the subject of his work for over a decade, often employing rational structures and technological processes to work through problems that organize themselves around the terms of painting.
“The luminous surfaces of his Chronochromes are composed using the color system devised by Albert H. Munsell in the 1990s. Thompson transposes Munsell’s system—used to classify everything from archaeological artifacts to frozen French fries—onto a calendrical cycle: each day is assigned a complementary hue pair, and for each laboriously hand-rendered mark painted during that day, the value is determined by the hour when the painting occurs, the saturation determined by the month. This system produces paintings “which register fatigue, distraction and interruptions as well as the flow of time itself” (J. Ribas, Cheyney Thompson, London, 2013, p. 3). The materiality of painting is the basis for the Chronochromes, which depict a motif drawn from an enlarged scan of canvas. Each painting is given a unique historical format, including those of an academic portrait painting, a diptych and a Renaissance tondo. The use of this typology continues the artist’s investigation into the history of painting.
Thompson’s long-standing interest in the circulation of painting is evident in the images of his landlords, which are composed using the four-color CMYK process of commercial painting. These works comment on the historical relations of artistic production and on the circulation and exchange of commodities and information—themes that run constantly through Thompson’s work. “Through what he calls ‘a subtractive process, removing degrees of light from the image’—as the CMYK process ‘subtracts’ luminance from white—Thompson’s portraits combine the painterly with deskilled technology” (ibid).
Thompson’s works commonly employ tables as pedestals or neutral presentational devices, as in Table of Blood and Guts (2002) and Table Displaying Gifts from the Landlord and Working Papers (2006) all exhibited in the Whitney Biennial in 2008. This efficiently mutable form suggests a relation to the portable economy of the street even as it serves as an organizing frame for the objects it shows off. Questioning protocols of exhibition as much as techniques of production and their contingent modes of reception in the space of the gallery, Thompson assumes the history, practice, and circulation of painting as his subject. These important works question the notion of painting itself and reflect the artist’s interest in varying forms of display.
Thompson mines the histories of modernism in his work, critiquing how images have been produced, displayed, and circulated. Here he collides past and present, making reference to Robho (1967–71), the French journal that promoted Kinetic art (an international movement of the late 1960s rooted in abstraction and motion), while also examining the everyday life of objects in today’s art market. While Thompson works predominantly as a painter, in this selection of works he has explored the print medium’s capacity for reproduction and technical variation, printing each image in five different colors to generate a full range of permutations, a decision perhaps also inspired by Robho, whose five issues were each printed in single color.
“In much of Thompson’s work we are asked to engage…in the condition that meaning can only arise as a condition of prepositional relation: between, among, with, of in…he asks us to submit to its constellated reality, not as radical fluidity and ease, but as a surfeit that threatens to overwhelm the coordinates of normative, or ordinary human life. He forces us to consider that all creative work, in any sphere, must find its own coordinates if it is to be released from the contagion of unexamined reaction. His work engages the structural mandate without submitting to automatism; systems and structures are treated as generative tools” (A, Lauterbach, “On Cheyney Thompson: The Task of Art in the Age of Information,” Cheyney Thompson, London, 2013, p. 175).