Andrew Grassie: Painting as Document
This article is from 2008.
This survey exhibition of recent and new work by Andrew Grassie, his first major solo show in Scotland, exhibits a selection of the artist’s paintings from the past ten years. When first viewed together, this output appears terribly uniform. The artist’s small photo-realist works adorn the gallery walls like precious gems, illuminated by their rich, egg-tempura hues. All are devoid of a central focus and most depict art-world scenes: an imagined hanging at Tate Modern, gallery installations and the government’s art collections store room.
The exhibition title refers to a time before the invention of the camera, when painting was a trusted form of documentation, and yet it still takes a glance at two or three of Grassie’s works to realise that these are not photographs, but paintings. His painterly skills lay a solid foundation for further such frustrations. The artist’s use of a Renaissance technique to document recognisable Modernist art works and contemporary spaces further challenges the viewer. Forced to form a judgemental hierarchy between the original works represented in the image, the picture plane and the overall artistic concept, the viewer feels vexed. Any conclusive thoughts of these artworks are perpetually deferred by Grassie’s complex conceptual intercessions, a premise which casts a sense of loss and depravity over this exhibition. For the theorist, Grassie’s explicit exploration of the derivative nature of contemporary art is an illustrious resource. For the casual viewer, however, this is an alienating, dense and stylistically fixed survey of work.
Talbot Rice Gallery, 650 2210, until 27 Sept, Mon-Sat 10am-5pm (Sun 2pm-5pm), free.