Always painting from his mind, never from an object or image, Seal sets the to work the imagination’s triumvirate of improvisation, invention and memory producing paintings at once flat and three-dimensional, realistic and yet like nothing ever seen before.
Set up in the style of still lives on pedestals, or on an indefinite but realistic ground, represented objects often appear unfinished, conveying a sense of ‘in the making’, while single strokes of paint float free from representation, or the ‘clay’ has not ‘yet’ been completely worked out to define an object. These shapes emerge from his recollections or stories, often carrying childhood memories, like for example the porcelain figurines that populated the home of his parents, which he used as toys to represent complex plays. Such memories also continually shift in balance or tension between the worlds of his father, who was a butcher, and his mother, a ballet dancer. It’s an iconography the artist has evolved over time in which paint slips disconcertingly from tool to subject matter, becoming embodiments of psychological reckoning; a physical expression of the gunk of memory through which each of us fashion our worlds. Paint is many things in his work; but it is also just paint, laid on a canvas, as bold, dumb and brilliant as that permits.
In this exhibition Ivan Seal asked the gallerist to select paintings from the years 2012 to 2018 and then made what he calls associative reaction paintings, thus creating a dialogue and making the reflection about the possibilities of improvisation/creation/painting even more complex. Some of the older works represent ceramic figurines of the Italian Commedia dell’ Arte as well as abstracted versions of flower bouquets and rocks. The new paintings tend to be more abstracted and wild, quoting the earlier objects but morphing them into distorted and sometimes comical forms. “Thus the understanding of maker and provider, author and interpreter is toyed with creating a game in which one controls the start whilst the other states the end. A game or a play needs a stage and here the stage is set within opaque background and vague foregrounds ruptured by the presented offering of an object. Even when shifting ever so close to figurative characters the thing remains a thing. Actors and props exist as objects to mobilize into the analytical relationship between sense and nonsense. This is also apparent in how each object relates to proximity partner and the sequential properties of the selections overall narrative.”
Ivan Seal was born in 1973 in Stockport near Manchester. He lives and works in Berlin. Recent solo exhibitions have taken place at FRAC Auvergne Clermond Ferrant, France in April - May 2019; Spazio Cabinet with The Caretaker, Milan 2018; Aplus, Berlin and Galerie RaebervonStenglin Zürich 2016; Carl Freedman Gallery, London 2015. Group shows: The Barbican with the Caretaker, London 2017 and Monica De Cardenas in 2016, Anton Kern Gallery, New York 2015.