Brad Lochore at Victoria Miro Gallery (1998)
Catalogue essay for Lochore’s exhibition Still life (18 March - 17 April 1998).
artdesigncafé - art | 28 July 2010
This essay was previously published in the catalogue accompanying Brad Lochore’s solo exhibition.
Brad Lochore makes paintings. He takes nothing for granted as to what Painting should be. The habitual characterisations of painting as either abstract or representational are simultaneously invoked and challenged in his work.
The viewer clearly approaches, physically, a painting. There is a faint image on the canvas surface, apparently a trace, which is familiar but unlocatable, resembling shadows. From what or where they have been cast is unclear. An interior is suggested which is equally uncertain. Even the handling of the paint, flat and without marks, has an ambiguous provenance. The "what appears to be an image" both invites and refutes prejudgements of its origin, of its very status as an image. It is at once an abstract pattern, a fragment of perspective, a blurred photograph, a moment in a cinematic passage. The viewer recognises all of these possibilities, and through them is pulled into the painting’s fiction.
One must work through the viewer-made fictions of Brad Lochore’s paintings in a real space and time that is visibly burdened with the cultural, constructed conventions of vision: conventions normally as invisible, as transparent as language. The viewer is held before a flickering space which is both linguistic and physical. Brad Lochore’s paintings are placed in precise relationships to the spaces where they appear. The space of the viewer is bound to and implicated in the complex space of the painting. The spaces are of the same world, constructed and problematic.
For some time, Brad Lochore has been devising schemes for his paintings with the aid of a computer. Contained in the set of programmes that he has used are catalogues of effects derived from photography, the nuances that enter the painting processes, the accidental phenomena caused by direct light striking the lens: the distortions caused by these lenses themselves. These objective characteristics have come to be known as a complex of subjective motifs which are used and reused as conventions. They are available as a signifying language for pictorial invention that is dependent on photography.
Brad Lochore’s paintings of the mid 90s have their origins in these programmes he has used, but are detached from their direct references to photography. Rather, their inventories of effects are regarded as the raw material of a contemporary understanding of Pictures. Consequently, these paintings lack the earlier resemblances or references to actual spaces and the residue of either the actual or photographic trace. Each painting is flat and object-like, resistant to pictorial interpretation. As objects, they have presence. Yet, it is their surfaces that demand attention, that remain contestable, that induce anxiety in the viewer. The features of these surfaces are less like shadows and more like drawings: diagrams that are apparently inconclusive, interrupted, insubstantial, unhierarchical and anti-spatial. They, like the shadows, continue to provoke the viewer’s use of knowledge of conventions of representation. They continue to incite assumptions about space, depth, distance and hierarchy. In attending to these paintings, what becomes palpable is the confusion and doubt caused by the presence of representation, which resides at the core of painting: the possibility of a problematic and profound fiction that is continuous with reality, which the viewer can neither evade nor resist.
The most recent paintings, from the series Still Life, return to the source of the story of art-making. A colour photograph made to announce the series shows an empty easel, a cut branch with dried leaves and a photographic lamp. The light of the lamp casts a shadow of the branch and its leaves onto the easel and the surface of the wall behind it. The image recalls paintings of the 18th and 19th centuries that depicts the stories of the origin of painting (the origin of Art). In them, the shadow of reality’s subject is traced by the artist (the lover) onto the surface, a possessable fragment of actuality.
In such paintings, the story of painting becomes the story of love and/or desire. The lover/artist wants to possess the reality of the subject via the traced shadow. But the means used for this possession are clearly inadequate. The produced image can only infer its original and come to life through the attentions of the lover, its maker and ideal viewer. Lochore’s photograph reenacts the pathetic moment where the inadequacy of the Picture is laid bare, it’s devices visible.
The paintings recall these devices more clearly than any paintings Brad Lochore has made before. Instead of the presence of photography, of lenses and their effects, of the computer and its image-world, there is the shadow and its nature, reinforced by its natural model: the branch and its (dead) leaves. The paintings stake a claim on being a trace of nature (and life), despite the fact that the ’original’ is not ’nature’ itself, but a corpse.
The painted surfaces which the viewer takes to be shadows are furthermore thought to be linked to a natural source—authentic, unmediated, uncontaminated and therefore taken to be true. With these paintings, the viewer is compelled to believe in fictions that offer signs of truth. They are like the traps that some predatory animals set with their appearance, making themselves look innocuous, even attractive to their victims. Their ’shadows’ seem to emulate different angles of light and their effects, the blurring of movement caused by a sudden breeze, the distortions caused by an uncertain surface of reception. But these are all games played between the dead, their ghosts and the incarcerated viewers, who fear their own deaths and cling to the belief in the veracity of any sign, regardless of its deception.
In the historical paintings concerning the origins of Art, the artist/lover, regarding the traced shadow of the beloved, often seems to carry the facial expression that comes with finding a new lover. The lover deceives the beloved, using the accident of Nature to guide the cheating hand that pictures.
Mark Pimlott is an artist, designer, photographer, filmmaker, and art/design historian.