Italian artist Rudolf Stingel takes over both of Sadie Coles HQ’s locations in London this month, bringing with him a typically enigmatic body of work that combines the artist’s interests in the role, transformation and translation of the painted image, taken in conjunction with its relation to photographic context, time and the natural world.
On view at both the gallery’s Berkeley Square space, and several blocks away at its Soho location on Kingly Street, the show takes as its subject matter a vintage German wildlife calendar, removing the images from their original context, and magnifies their scale by several degrees, eventually translated from oversized photographs to photorealistic paintings. Yet, following in line with Stingel’s typically enigmatic, process-centered practice, allows sudden moments of heavy impasto and sudden painterly inflections to sabotage the surface integrity of his impressively executed canvases. At the moment when the viewer might feel most immersed in the scene depicted before them, a slight shift in hand or flick of the artist’s wrist might immediately self-destruct the image as precise representation, leaving its conceptual framework writ large.
Stingel’s pieces are locked in a conversation with nostalgia here, albeit a distinctly self-aware one, utilizing the archival nature imagery of the calendar (itself a quite literal stand-in for the passage of time) to emphasize its own exchange with the technological history of the photographic medium. Yet the works are equally preserved here in a format that both plays on its own fetishistic material fascination with the imperfections and artifacts of analog photography. Stingel’s brusque interjections into the work’s surface, countered by the meticulous strokes that realize the work’s initial photographic appearance, each working in turn to emphasize or downplay the reality standing just beyond the lens, or perhaps the frame in turn.
In this moment, held between the immediacy of photography and the dense technical involvement that drives the creation of the painted canvas, Stingel’s work is an interesting conceptual/historical exercise in miniature, exploring the conflicts of representation and deconstruction that underscored much of the 20th Century’s discourse, yet presented here in slight exchanges of hand and eye.
The exhibition is on view through December 18th, 2015.
— D. Creahan
Rudolf Stingel [Sadie Coles HQ]