sam“The Burial of Painting” after Millais 2016 BMC“The Death of Painting”

What: The Death of Painting by Brendan McGorry
Where and when: Sanderson Contemporary Art, 2 Kent St, Newmarket, to September 4
TJ says: Brendan McGorry turns the colour and manner of 19th century art on its head 

Increasingly galleries are mounting the work of two artists in parallel. It sometimes offers a piquant contrast; certainly the two shows at Sanderson Contemporary Art are at different poles of style and thought.

In one room, Brendan McGorry offers extremely colourful work obliquely titled, The Death of Painting. The works all refer to paintings by Sir John Millais, president of the Royal Academy in the 19th century.

There are three of Millais’ most famous works referenced. The least known of them, perhaps because it is in Detroit, is called ‘Leisure Hours’. The inverted commas around the title were deliberate on the part of Millais because it has two beautifully dressed young girls looking at two bright red goldfish in a bowl.

McGorry’s version heightens the colour and the bright presence of the fish. It is clear that for all their beauty and lovely dresses, the young women are just passing time. Is the work a comment on contemporary art that has an audience, wealthy but not really involved?

The better known, Vale of Rest, (a superb sunset painting with two nuns, one digging a grave and the other watching melancholy on) is more radically altered and retitled, The Burial of Painting. Here the grave is darker and deeper than the original and what the nun shovels out of the pit is blood red. Perhaps she is shovelling colour out of today’s art.

That is a charge that could not be levelled at McGorry’s version of Ophelia, almost the best-known painting in the Tate. Where Millais surrounds the drowning woman with a multiplicity of plants in shades of green, in this painting colour runs wild but in runs and splashes of bright red in the wild expressionist paintwork of the girl’s dress. Careful drawing is out; wild attack is in.

Whatever the implied analysis, the title of the show is a misnomer in that these are paintings done with verve in a modern idiom and demonstrate that the act of painting is not dead.

sam PAINTING’S NEW MAIDENS” AFTER MILLAIS 2016 BMC“Paintings new Maidens”