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Picnic On The Top Floor

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The best works are the big landscapes, with lots of wild uncovered scumbling and lower strips of exposed primed canvas - presented to mock commerce but in fact embracing it.


Andrew Barber


Gambia Castle at Britomart Masonic House, Level 3

9 December - 12 December 2009

The title Picnic seems to refer to spacious park or estate grounds for a location, and a plaid or tartan blanket on which the food to be consumed is placed. For these openly slick (rough whilst elegant) ‘unfinished’ landscapes are in fact two contradictory paintings - on both recto and verso. Painted tartans (ie. crisscrossing perpendicular and horizontal bands) on one side, and very brusherly but sweet vistas, modelled on real estate brochure photographs, on the other.

Andrew Barber’s elegant presentation of eleven such mischievous - but not really subversive - paintings in three linked artists’ studios on the top floor of Britomart Masonic house has a touch of the Scottish rebel about it - a fantasized claymore prodding the side of the wealthy landscape purchaser, an imagined dirk pricking their throat with its implied (but fake) symbolic ‘abstract’ violence. The tartans don’t look that Scottish. They look like Burberry and quite different from the tartans of say, Rob McLeod or Kenneth Noland paintings.

The presence of two paintings back to back on the same canvas also slows down the chemical process of paint hardening - not drying, using the principles of evaporation as with acrylic, but oxidizing so the skin solidifies, as with oil. The works have to hang around the studio longer and so tease the artist with their quick execution but slow stabilization.

The best works are the big landscapes, with lots of wild uncovered scumbling and lower strips of exposed primed canvas - presented to mock commerce but in fact embracing it. One enormous work is stunning and it alone is the worth the effort of clambering wearily up the stairs. It’s a good looking show in an impressive, attractively raw, venue.


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