'Bad Mannerism' (group show) at Galerie Pompom, Sydney, opening May 2, 2018
I'm quietly excited about my new series of paintings, which will have the 'big reveal' in Sydney on May 2.
I get bored easily and hate getting into a rut. Every few years I clean the slate, and launch into something entirely different. This is one of those moments.
I'm keeping the images close to my chest for now (just a sneak preview here for you special blog visitors) as it's all happening in the studio at this very moment and I don't want to wreck the surprise.
I love art history, actually any history, because I get such a buzz out of uncovering patterns and parallels.
We think we are so advanced today with our high-techness, our global connectedness and the invention of artificial intelligence, but as they say in French, plus ça change, plus c'est la meme chose ('The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.') It hardly needs to be said that human nature, with its, desires, ambitions and fears doesn't change at all.
'Bad Mannerism' references the sixteenth century Mannerist movement, showing contemporary artists working with similar ideas today.
To jog your the art history juices (mixed metaphors I know) - Mannerism came after the Renaissance and before the Baroque, and was a reaction against the supposed 'naturalism' attained in high Renaissance art. The so-called Mannerists (never a formal group) were bored with rules and correctness and wanted to be stand out, rebel, and create something new and unexpected at the expense of 'natural' beauty. They wanted to do whatever they pleased with their subjects (mainly the human figure); to show that the classical solution of perfect harmony is not the only conceivable solution .
The whole thing was meant just for the elites (the ones with money to pay for it), and considered an intellectual game for the in-crowd.
The audience were the members of the aristocratic courts; people like the Medici and their entourage who wanted to be seen as smart and sophisticated.
Mannerist art showed off by deliberately doing things 'wrongly'.
This took different forms in art, but, for example, they would depict figures with stretched or strange proportions and, in contrast, render them with breathtaking technique (a bit like like John Currin). Only the upper class got the joke.
Figures in Mannerist paintings are posed (and 'mannered') rather than looking naturalistic, and reflect the idea that in court, artificiality was actually the goal. Your identity was supposed to be performed, and you deliberately presented yourself to be seen in a certain way (which was supposed to appear effortless.)
'Ordinary' real life was seen as crass, and showing the real you considered terribly gauche.
Masks were the way to go (actual and metaphorical); the aim being to produce a polished and performed life.
Different versions of Mannerism appeared in various parts of Europe. Artists in the south included Parmigianino with his elegant elongations (a bit like today's magazine models who have been digitally stretched beyond belief), Bronzino and Pontormo. In the north there was Goltzius and Uytewael. El Greco is also loosely placed with the group.
There is disagreement on how Mannerism was named. One theory says it was initially an insult, implying something over-elaborate, fake and contrived (i.e. mannered). Another theory says it was a more positive term and came from the French word manière, referring to the courtly literature of manners.
Part of the Mannerist art 'game' was making paintings based on other paintings, but removing most of the key traditional elements - being 'super cool' by removing the important bits.
In Pontormo's depiction of the Entombment of Christ he removes the whole backdrop (anything that could look like dirt or a tomb) and just keeps the floating figures. So what's left is a shell of a quotation, with the original intention and symbols abandoned.
The idea was that the higher spiritual and intellectual realms were prioritised over the lower physical realm.
Maybe this all sounds very contemporary...
Well, the curator of 'Bad Mannerism', Chelsea Lehmann, picked up on exactly this, and voila, we have an exhibition.
PS If you would like images sent to you prior to the show or an invitation to the opening please send a message via the contact page.