Painting is about an artist deciding to paint something in someway; or, in the case of many contemporary artists, painting something in a number of different ways. What to paint and how to paint it? The two questions started to haunt art when it was no longer clear that painting gods, saints and heroes were improving the lives of those who looked at them any more than paintings of pots, plates and oysters. If cows are a suitable subject to paint then why not cows shitting (healthy cows do defecate argued one 19th century artist so he painted them doing just that). Donald Kuspit argues in the Cult of the Avant-Garde Artist (1993) that artists are attempting to heal the world by creating images that are primordial, geometric and pure, expressive or famous. The subject matter of paint, that Clement Greenberg advocated, is yet another subject to paint. Once the artist has decided what to paint how to depict this subject, this meaningful or meaningless stuff, in paint is the next problem.
UK artist Steven Rendall is having a solo exhibition of paintings, “Security, Storage & Recreation” at John Buckley Gallery. Rendall paints stuff, often lots of stuff on shelves, displayed or stored. This stuff is in abundance; there is lots of it in Rendall’s paintings, multiples of the same stuff on shelves that extend forever in perspective to a vanishing point. There are also many images of video monitors; some of them looked like part of ACMI’s exhibition. Some of this stuff is images of other stuff and like many contemporary painters Rendall is focused on images of images, with the slippage of wet paint.
All of this stuff depicted in Steven Rendall’s art is painted in a variety of different ways from a post-impressionist divisionism to paint that layers up, washes over or redacts. In some paintings he mixes up these styles. ‘Redacted’ was used a couple of times in the titles of Rendall’s paintings referring to the current military use of ‘redacted’ to refer to censoring documents with black ink; Rendall redacts with areas of paint. Rendall’s paintings were in a variety of sizes from small boards to large wall sized canvases.
Steven Rendall plays with paint and painting and results are enjoyable paintings.