John Bunker, John Chilver, Phil Frankland, Gunther Herbst, Peter Lamb, Charley Peters, Simon Pike, Jessica Power, Michael Stubbs, Mark Wright
Signifiance: Painting Beyond Borders reflects the myriad ways the selected artists are pushing at and exploring the boundaries between old and new media, between our historically rooted modernist, medium-based understanding of painting practice and the contemporary critical discourse that attempts to extend or break it down. Feminist philosopher Julia Kristeva coined the term 'Signifiance' in order to address the intimate relations between human subjectivity and language. But might the melding of the terms ‘Signification’ and ‘Defiance’ be co-opted to explore a new kind of agency for the medium of painting within our technologically expanded, 21st-century image culture?
If, as art historian Isabel Graw says ".... we conceive painting not as a medium but as a production of signs..." then we see the subjective experience of painting now as complex webs of visual structures, historical references and linguistic turns. In accepting that there is no essential modernist essence of painting, painting’s agency asserts itself as a series of divisions, overlappings, slippages and collisions that foreground a hybridisation of painterly languages and the play of historical tropes.
The artists in this exhibition give free reign to a level of visual and conceptual invention synonymous with the legacies of abstract art. These artists emphasise the physical properties of the picture surface as a constructed or deconstructed space whilst simultaneously re-imagining its possibilities. They might use the layering of imagery or the physical rupture of the support. Or they might create other interruptions that cast the artist's indexical mark or the body’s performative actions against digital representations. This show asks us to re-imagine the painting surface as a place of Signifiance; a site of referentially unstable signifying chains that are relentlessly reconfigured and reconstructed with new, exotic and defiant formulations.