Having been championed in Saatchi’s “Newspeak: British Art Now”, Jonathan Wateridge has a new solo exhibition showcasing a series made up of 7 mammoth works.
Another Place consists of a series of seven large oil paintings, each 3m x 4m, depicting scenes from the production and narrative of a fictional American film that is centered on an unseen catastrophic event.
The production process of the paintings is in itself redolent of film-making. Prior to the first marks on canvas, scale model sets are built, props fabricated, costumes made and performers cast in each role.
Executed in a robust realist manner, the paintings are on the one hand akin to a grand historical cycle and on the other, a playful study of genre structures. But this is serious play, an adult playground – role-play for grown-ups that has more sober subtexts.
A sense of unease and disquiet pervades the scenes and though each picture relates to the disaster, there is only one explicitly catastrophic image: a section of an overpass or directional interchange that has collapsed onto the ground below.
The theme of divided strata runs throughout the series. This is represented by certain motifs such as the division caused by the collapsed highway, or within the work's fictional cityscape: the relationship between hillside and valley living and its connotations of class and economy.
Another central facet of the pictures is an exploration of their status as a construct. These paintings are elaborate fictions but with visible seams. Schisms within the work are created by blurring the boundaries between the narrative and the production process. Within this alternate reality, the series exploits the different angles from which you can approach the paintings and establishes a Brechtian sense of defamiliarisation and estrangement.
The paintings draw you in and establish a genuine, though uncanny, relationship with the figures depicted, which, like a ventriloquial movement of the lips, is then disturbed by revealing the underlying construction.
The subtle dislocations within the narrative of each image emphasize a notion of intrinsic remove. Ultimately, in a world awash with the consumption of received and generic imagery, everything occurs to someone else and in another place.