Artist Merlin Carpenter is a relentless shapeshifter, continuing a critique of modern art through a boundless series of projects and practices that often delve into ruptures and problems with the language of modern art. Exploring problems not of understanding, but of functionality in terms of art’s presentation and use, the artist explores just how aesthetics and value systems can be extended over the canvas. Emphasizing new levels and layers of observation intended to focus not only within the world of art-viewing, but in the world more broadly, the artist’s work makes a striking visual impact.
This exploration of work finds a new voice in the artist’s work on view this month at Simon Lee Gallery in London, where he presents a suite of new paintings. Grappling with the potential relationship between painting and the readymade; and the possibility of collapsing the ideas that distinguish these practices, his works in the show explore a range of subject matters, transposing celebrities, thinkers and artists onto the canvas is simultaneously surreal and hyperrealistic paintings, pieces that are presented with the intent of being understood, in some senses, as readymades. Bearing bizarre titles like J.G. Ballard, Drives an Allard, Goes For a Walk With His Pet Mallard, his pieces transpose size and scale in unnerving ways, yet are rendered in a meticulously realistic hand. These studied renderings of the scenes described, turned away from moments of both tabloid fodder and imaginative political scenes, encourages the audience to both critique the authenticity of the paintings and simultaneously accept the role of the artist’s hand.
For Carpenter, this idea of the image takes a backseat to that of its effects. Welcoming critique of his work that understands the relationship between depiction and event, his images seem to call up our own understandings and posings of the landscape of modernity and the ways in which we understand their presentation. Emphasizing how we look at the world around us, Carpenter seems to emphasize just what we look at, how we see it, and what we do next.
The show closes January 18th.
— D. Creahan
Merlin Carpenter [Exhibition Site]