Callum Moncrieff - 'Recent Works'

Cornerstone Gallery, Hope @ Everton
24th February - 24th March 2006

Reviewed by Helen Grey

‘Recent Works’ is a chronological numbered series inspired and influenced by an exaggerated awareness of the visual world that is fed from architecture, painting, sculpture, conversations, materials and the position of ordinary things.

I don’t pretend to know all that much about art, but then not everyone who goes to an exhibition does either. If ‘Recent Works’ was intended as ‘an exaggerated awareness of the visual world’ then the point was lost on me. It looks as if Moncrieff has created a massive abstract painting, cut it up into small squares and numbered them. When asked why he did not title his work, Moncrieff stated: “A title is an investment of what follows. It is not a thing that is there at the time of making. It can falsify the experience of making. I do not intend to use contrived titles such as ‘blasted tree'. If I want to paint a blasted tree then I will do that". I agree with his sentiment but it occurs to me that the artist himself was unsure of what his work was trying to do and so created a clever but somewhat pretentious excuse.

It is very difficult to extract any meaning from this work - each piece is a variation on a theme but I’m just unsure on what the theme is. Within the pieces there are snippets of recognisable forms but there is not enough of them to generate any further thought. Not all paintings have to have a meaning behind them; simple abstraction is fine but at this point aesthetics become increasingly important and I found the repetitive use of brown paper, black and grey paint somewhat displeasing.

When looking at the work, I found myself trying out different interpretations of the work while trying to figure out if this is the one the artist intended. Unfortunately they all felt false and unconvincing. But is the artists’ intention to alienate the audience? If this is so it is a successful collection, however it is also a dangerous game to play. Those not involved in the art world often dislike it because they are made to feel alienated and stupid if they do not ‘understand’ the work. I’m sure there will be people who enjoy this collection but I would very much like to ask them why.

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