End of the world, or End of bad paintings
Following a recent installation, Athlete, at the Sculpture Square, we find Jeremy Sharma’s End of a Decade in the substation gallery. I can imagine that an audience will need reconciliation between his work, and any realistic, representational work. I shall attempt to approach his work on the word ‘representation’, but in a symbolic manner. The title, possibly representing 10 years of searching for something, is hardly revealed from the range of works on exhibit. The exhibition could loosely be grouped into two halves, a curious obsession with ‘sea parts’; the other, A bacon-esque lure of flesh. The former has a curious form, doing the impossible to split the sea like a cake, or a pinball machine table. The latter, experiments with colours that could possibly represent flesh, especially in Flesh Series, 2006, oil on canvas paper – from the pink from a meat dicer, to the grotesque green that suggest rotting. The artist suggested that these were experiments with colour and catastrophic forms, and perhaps circumstances the like of Armageddon.
The entry point to this exhibition, the work that allows the viewer a clue to artist’s methodology and psyche, is perhaps Jacob Wrestling An Angel, 2006. The painting is honestly a mess of burnt sienna, red oxides, greys, pale yellow, and dashes of black arranged in a coded composition. With the aid of the title, the elements rearrange to reveal two interlocking heads, a bare back body against a white gown body in motion. It is perhaps the most visionary of all, revealing that the artist possibly has an image or images in his head, before he painted. Like the other paintings in the exhibition, the absence of understanding, or the avoidance of a western one point perspective could confuse the viewer, more so than the glaring raw colours, that reminded me of how I chose colours when I painted – excess colours, sometimes as monotonous as HDB colours, in the bargain bin of the college art shop.
The work that broke the strange colour monotony, for me, was Carnival/carnivorous Sexus, 2007. This one summed up the flesh of acrylic paint and oil, the ‘meat’ to why some painters paint. At first glance, they looked like fried chicken wings on a platter. The simple riot of harmonious colours was crispy to the eyes, and more. Like the lure of deep fried food, they provide an interesting association and interpretation of flesh, usually depicted dripping erotic raw in the likes of Lucian Freud or Francis Bacon. The platter of radiating green in the shade and lush soft lilac are a stark contrast to the dark grey background.
The summative piece End of the Decade (2006), centre at the end of the gallery was apt, poignant and possibly personal, camouflaged and protective of the reasons the artist chose to paint the way he painted, and the subject matters that swims in his head. Like British painter Martin Maloney, it typifies the kind of ‘new neurotic realism’ that Maloney spoke about for a while, glorifying a postmodern condition resulting in ‘bad’ paintings. It is perhaps end of a decade for neurotic realism, as we see the emergence of a more cohesive and powerful stylistic homogenous use of colours in Eleven Bookmarks of Mortality (2007), and Carnival/carnivorous Sexus, 2007.
An impressive exhibition of large proportions, more than adequate to usher in the porky lunar new year. It perhaps signals the mortal end of bad paintings from Jeremy and a new beginning of a more locally palatable style.
6 of 10 stars
22 Feb Till 4th March 2007
The Substation Gallery
artist’s website, to expect more in the future (www.thelacunasofgrace.com)