Each of these artists is engaged with the history of the cultural object. Representing a dominant tendency in contemporary art, these artists look to the past in order to configure the current, embracing the histories of painting, photography and object making within their practice. Their assimilation illustrates a progression away from the ironic and towards the affirmative.
Emma Bennett appropriates still life elements directly from Dutch and Italian masters. These motifs are rendered in fine oil paint against monochromatic grounds, thus fusing historical and Modernist tropes to investigate the memento mori, death, beauty and the void.
Kiera Bennett makes abstract paintings that begin with the everyday life of the artist. Recalling early 20thcentury cubism and Modernism, Bennett makes drawings and paintings in repetition that allude to, for example, smoking, lounging, being hung over and the act of painting itself.
Tom Butler collects 19th century cabinet cards, working delicately over the original photograph with beautifully fine gouache. The original subject is overtaken or inhabited by fur, flowers or geometric patterns, alluding to the unconscious fears and desires of the individual.
Eric Manigaud makes impeccable photo-realist drawings after found transparencies and sourced historical images. Working in series, Manigaud explores fundamental subjects that are pertinent to the modern era: asylums, war, the occult and forensic photography.
Wendy Mayer works from found family photographs and collectable reborn dolls in order to make her uncanny figure sculptures. Demonstrating superlative sculptural and painterly techniques, Mayer’s bizarre figures displace the past for the present and toy with intimate familial relationships.
Gavin Nolan’s recent paintings depict versions of historical figures. Combining hyper-realism with material painting at a small scale, Nolan reveals simultaneously the heroic and fragile nature of his subjects, and meditates on celebrity, legacy and tragedy.
Claire Partington makes exceptional ceramic works that focus on narrative and the retelling and misinterpretation of stories. Inspired by European applied art and design styles from the 1600’s onwards, Partington employs traditional techniques that reference a panoply of historical and contemporary sources.
John Stark deploys outstanding technique to render fine oil paintings on board. Stark draws on Italian, Dutch, and German historical painting in combination with popular contemporary visual culture to make paintings that are underpinned by complex mythological, religious and philosophical notions.