Henry Matisse a cool guy
25 Sept – 06 November 2020, Tuesday to Friday
Tuesday to Friday is pleased to announce Philip Gerald first exhibition, Gerald’s humorous paintings hark back to a time of clip art and Microsoft paint, of crude images beamed around the world via the majesty of dial-up internet. He lives and works in Dublin. He studied Fine Art Sculpture and Visual Culture at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, before dropping out in third year to develop his skills as a writer. A phlegmatic character, Gerald isn’t too concerned with how his work is received, but rather chooses to focus on enjoying the process.
Philip Gerald’s new works point directly to the figure of Matisse, although we are not facing a tribute, nor an ironic rereading. Gerald is interested in the capabilities of new technological tools to transform our ways of seeing, and how these tools operate when applied to emblematic works of high culture. This gesture, which seems like a mere irreverent game, actually hides a lucid reflection: if art has always been a “virtual reality”, that is, a production of possible worlds. Is not the digital field the perfect territory for a current conception of the plastic image? In fact, Gerald problematizes this issue when he transfers his digital compositions to the traditional pictorial support: his figures seem to have been digitally elabora- ted through a precarious image editor; however, his transfer to the canvas seems to consequently deal with a legitimization of his work as an undeniable work of art.
Just as Matisse established a game of tensions between tradition and the avant-garde, Gerald proposes a constant tug-of-war between two extremes: on the one hand, the pictorial heritage that the image places on a tangible support and, on the other, the overflowing irruption of a digital universe distributed through the new connectivity devices. But it is not necessary that we take this dialectic too seriously: the artist himself has pointed out that his artistic project has a great deal of playful strategy and that, above high theoretical interpretations, there is a claim in the work of the useless. But this should not be read as a mere gesture of disaffection or disenchantment; on the contrary, the artist connects with the idea that Nuccio Ordine raised in his essay The Usefulness of the Useless, where he pointed out the urgent need for a rebellion against the productivist imagery that today do- minate all areas of culture and education.
What then remains from Matisse in Gerald’s current work? Only a star- ting point to continue thinking about an image capable of generating an aesthetic emotion, but no longer protected by that deeply normative “joy of living” that the Frenchman developed in his paintings. Gerald transforms the characters into ambiguous figures in his genre, changes the smile on their faces for exaggerated gestures of sadness, and modifies the exquisite fauvist colour temperature through fluorescent tones. Because today, the joy of living can only be thought of as one more cliché than the many that today’s entertainment society offers us.