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Gillian Carnegie, Turner Prize nominee

From: blp
Category: Art
Date: 13 December 2005


A good painter. Many years ago I saw her first show at Cabinet when she was fairly fresh out of college. It was all pictures of her bum as I remember it. There was also a Wolfgang Tillmans photo of a t-shirt. I didn't enjoy it or the paintings. Someone said her work was like Luc Tuymans', but I couldn't see it at all. The handling of the paint seemed conventional and the colours were ugly.

But it's moved on and is now immaculate. However much the utter goopiness of paint is brought to the fore, there's nothing dirty going on, no matter out of place, to paraphrase Freud's definition of dirt and if all this comes out of the childish impulse to smear shit on the wall, as one theory of painting goes, it's an impulse that's been entirely contained and sanitized. The effect, however, is satisfying rather than anodyne, an impressive sense of chaos mastered.

This seems to be creating problems for her commentators, never acknowledged. It's as if the idea that she should be accepted as a serious contemporary artist is a first principle and from there you just have to work out how to justify it retroactively. Why isn't she a traditional artist? Allegedly because her techniques constantly draw attention to the act of painting. I don't understand how that's different from Manet, Monet, Van Gogh or Seurat. Especially Seurat. The idea that this kind of thing is new seems to come out of a phillistine assumption that none of the painters of the past had any conceptual faculties. The real first principle seems to be that, so that if you like any contemporary painters you have to lie that they're not traditional rather than admit that the tradition is good.

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