THE BELLY AND THE GUTS
Louise Giovanelli, Tommy Harrison, Robin Megannity, Fischer Mustin and Rafal Topolewski
Curated in collaboration with Dr Ian Hartshorne
14 July - 25 August, 2023
The painters in this show all graduated from Manchester School of Art, I have had the wonderful privilege to teach all of them. That they are all exhibiting together represents the first time a contemporary gallery has had the radical foresight to present a group of artists who all foreground matters arising from within painting itself.
Alice Amati has made an audacious move by inviting these artists, which acknowledges that something worth considering is happening in Manchester regarding painting, and that building a bridge between art school and art world is urgent and timely.
Robin Megannity produces paintings that on a granular level are simultaneously thinking, feeling and touching. Through him, the paintings reflect that after postmodernism’s successful demolition of authorship, the issue for artists now seems to be recontextualisation – not only from analogue to digital but the recontextualisation of arts own history and its function within a contemporary context.
Louise Giovanelli is a stunning example of an ultra contemporary artist whose approach to painting addresses how all to often, painting falls victim to being theorized, whilst its aesthetic dimension is ignored. She casts this apparent veto directly in the bin. The obvious intelligence in the work all comes through her hands. There is a gold cable connection between her eyes and fingers; the results are chapters (series) of high impact statements of tender, perverted, and embarrassingly beautiful painting passages, which always avoid mawkishness.
The emerging career to Tommy Harrison develops paintings which pugnaciously approach upskilling and reject awkwardness. Why and how did awkwardness gain so much currency these past 20 years? Surely there’s enough of it already? We don’t need any more. His recent paintings speak to the idea that the Post/Meta? Modern era is an extremely confusing time. We are no longer living in a simple age where definitions and categories are easily assigned. Harrison’s work gives a reliable account of the contemporary conditions and surroundings that we now inhabit, and state the importance of resisting outright nostalgia. He consciously avoids an overt referencing to a ‘golden age’ of painting and instead fuses together a constructed amalgam of historical and contemporary motifs.
Similarly but much more weirdly, more metabolically, Fisher Mustin regards painting as part of us, part of our histories, as such; important work is ahead- to preserve painting but exploit it too. Painting in the West appears to be a tradition and product of a collective culture, it is a tradition built from a rich heritage of memories, and obsessions and the allure and fascination with painting is alive and well, if only we know where to look. It's a problem of looking.
Of all the artists in this show, Rafal Topolewski is the most travelled, certainly the most moved around. He may well state ‘There is much to discover?’ And as his continental meanderings align with his painterly journey, painting may well be a country, though one with a long history of occupation. Various ideologies, systems and identities are established only to be subsequently dismantled, which never feel secure from future attacks. How does this country begin to function when at last it is liberated? How does it regain its identity? Or perhaps find its essence in the wake of its troubled history? Well…keep looking.
The artists in this show reposition painting as primarily a material and physical act, human, real, sensorial and seductive. Thereby promoting a return towards certainty, a certainty that will finally re-establish the importance of making and looking.
They all deal with matters of painting because painting matters.
Text by Dr Ian Hartshorne