Painting and the nature of painting now has been the subject of rather a few shows of late. Off Kilter: An Age of Oil has just opened at London’s Dadiani Fine Art, offering a view of painting that is terrifying in all manner of ways; some crass, some drug-like, all a little depressing.
After all, the only non-21st-century painter to feature in the show is William S. Boroughs. When you take the master of postmodernist nightmare as your spring board, the final product is not likely to be full of sunshine and light.
Kelly-Anne Davitt’s Melons is the closest to warmth as you’ll get in this show and this is still a little nightmarish. A Sun newspaper type ‘lovely’ grins a white, horsey grin, hair flowing mermaid-like over her shoulders, totally nude but for a pair of enormous yellow melons held up over her, ahem, melons. The smiling subject is orange, the background is a sickly bright green, everything pops from the canvas in jovial luminosity apart from her two empty, kohl-surrounded eyes.
Other works are far more overt in their gloom. Ewa Wilczynski’s Crux looks like the produce of a bad acid trip (without the usual bright colours to cheer things up), as though you’re looking at a pile of bloody intestines through Google’s recently much publicised DeepDream. Helena Pritchard’s Untitled doesn’t mess about, this multi-toned black painting is straight up bleakness.
Taking inspiration from Borroughs, the gallery chose to pick their ordering at random, placing artists next to each other as their names were picked from a hat. Similarly to the work of the great American writer, this disorder actually ends up working very well as a big, freakish whole.
This is off kilter indeed. Burroughs would be proud.
Off Kilter: An Age of Oil is showing at Dadiani Fine Art, London until 7 September.