L’étrangère is delighted to present The Original Image. This group exhibition features three artists, whose work agitates the borders between art history and contemporary painting, addressing changing media and technology and exploring the form of the reproduced image. These three practitioners combine to create a playful and tactile examination into how the appropriated image, through its isolation or pairing, communicates to the beholder something new and exciting in the process. The exhibition echoes Walter Benjamin’s assertion that “reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition” thus freeing the artist to embrace the gestural and physical, expanding our ideas of what it means when we seek to interact with the ‘original’.
Martin McGinn gives vitality to objects or images that have become fixed as the furniture of our domestic and cultural environments. His works reach out to the viewer with features that transgress the painting/sculpture divide, echoing the physicality of the works he has reproduced. Finding pathways through the gallery space, the work ‘Four Blank Pages’ (2013) is a conceptual and physical bridge, the thickly applied paint giving a texture and gesture to an unmarked page. It is in this play between the physical presence and the referenced absence where McGinn seeks the original. His use of pins to puncture a painted puncture is an assertion of the artist himself, the entry point of the pinprick becoming a tense interaction between the original work and the new.
The paintings of Luey Graves speak to how we have inherited artistic touchstones and incorporated them within the physical and quotidian. Graves’ mute palettes are an abstract background for objects that float, unanchored within a landscape of shifting images. Within each frame is the story of an object, appropriated by the context of display, alongside a feminised domesticity of production and consumption. She has imposed visceral interactions between hands preparing food and details of objects that signify the physicality of human relationships. Fertility symbols, the idealized female form, the male as warrior or holy icon, the paintings are an examination of sensuality.
Placed alongside one another, Graves and McGinn communicate across a technological divide. Graves signals to the shifting screen image where all of history and culture is immediately available and simultaneously absent, while McGinn’s representational paintings depict the very human way in which we interact with the images that surround us every day.
Sitting apart and distinct within the gallery is the ‘Stiff Peaks’ series by Mark Corfield-Moore. His works recreate architectural detailing characteristic of historical art movements, subverting and altering them through the layering of anachronistic materials. His photographs display the temporally unstable textures of sugar icing, simultaneously armouring and feminizing the solid marble busts. Though their faces are unrecognizable, their exposed marble bases reference the monumental and decadent. Corfield-Moore’s layered images question hierarchies of culture and the ethics of the reproduced image. By covering the details of the sculptures, which were in themselves found and reproduced images, from the beginning they occupy a position of absence and lack.
The work of these three ambitious contemporary artists represents both a return to ideas of what the original image might be, and welcomes new technologies and ways of interacting with an image or text. By the appropriating art history’s images, metaphors, symbols and archetypes, the works of The Original Image blur the boundaries between the original artwork and its many representations.