Jonathan Wateridge

Jonathan Wateridge, currently on show at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice, will be exhibiting a collection of new and unseen paintings in All Visual Arts Autumn show, during the Frieze Art Fair.

The exhibition, Mittelland, consists of six vast oil paintings (often exceeding 3m x 4m) which explore a sense of displacement within anonymous urban scenes that are both familiar and alien. The locations are primarily peripheral or transitional spaces, such as corridors, gates, stairs and a balcony and make reference to the idea of relocation and dislocation. The notion of emergence and recession also reflects the way the figures inhabit the space of the paintings; nothing is fixed, the characters are merely passing through these states.

One canvas, Re-painting, shows a middle aged couple in their building site of a house: the walls are in the process of being plastered; there are dust sheets, paint pots and decorating tools scattered around. It is an environment in total flux. In the midst of working on the space, the figures are covered in a layer of dust; this appears to absorb them back into the environment as if they have become ghosts in their own home.

Ultimately, the world Wateridge portrays is entirely fabricated. The artist paints what he describes as “elaborate fictions with visible seams”, building full scale movie-like sets for each painting in his studio and employing actors to pose as characters. The underlying fact that the environments are all elaborate fictional constructions is used to disturb the relationship that the viewer forms with the figures depicted.

In comparison to his previous series, Mittelland is more sober in feel. The vibrant palette and overt dramatisation of the earlier work, synonymous with Hollywood, is replaced by a more subdued and isolated portrayal of his characters and what they stand for. The paintings are intentionally unspectacular in location and action, but remain highly ambitious in scale and resonant in their simplicity.

The quiet transience of the situations depicted works against the monumentality of the canvases themselves. Within the paintings of Mittelland, the intimate is made epic and the prosaic becomes vital.