May 29 - June 27 2015
Hunter / Whitfield is pleased to present Dawn, an exhibition of paintings by Christopher Page. These artworks condense traditionally contradictory approaches to the task of painting and ask us to come to terms with how our gaze is solicited.
At first sight these pictures display compositional geometries reminiscent of those modernisms that attempt(ed) to deal with the material/optical fact of paint on canvas. Simultaneously we perceive the play of light and shadow across modulated surfaces that propose shallow depths – figurations, even – illusions systematically outlawed by those modernisms.
This apparent contradiction leads us quickly to the question: are these paintings abstract or figurative? Cumbersome at first, this can be further refined: what do these paintings figure, or what are they abstracted from? Are these colours descriptive, or are they schematic or optical? Could we describe these paintings, perhaps, as figurations of an abstract world, setting up ambivalent visual situations that hold the gaze in a productive tension?
Those modernisms and traditional trompe l'oeil painting share an often-overlooked affinity: they both hold you on the surface of the painting by respecting, even dramatizing, the limits of the canvas. If you were to see through the canvas you would not see (in the Modernist approach) the painting in its material/optical reality, or (as in trompe l'oeil painting) mistake the canvas for something else, like a panel of mahogany.
In combining strategies such as these, Christopher Page's ambivalent works aim neither at a 'materialism', nor at a trompe l'oeil, but at what Lacan termed a dompte-regard: a taming of the gaze, an invitation for the eyes to see themselves seeing.