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  • Writer's pictureKayleigh Woodings

Amusing ourselves to death. And now…..this

The works over the last 2 years are really an accumulated narrative and have their genesis in my continued interest in visual discourse and the Anthropocene. Much of the last decade’s work has, I suspect, been influenced in more ways than I am probably prepared to admit, by the events of the Christchurch earthquakes, and that, overlapping my decades old interest in climate change and humanity’s responses to those changes.

I have frequently used the term ‘the species is amusing itself to death’ to reference themes within my work, noting that I often feel as if I am myself doing the same, particularly as I get older. And so, the images are to be seen as both amusing and anxious images of our time. So, a complex set of underlying narratives with which to ‘read’ the paintings. This is further amplified with the titles referencing equally obscure terms, particularly the use of And, now…. premising both exhibition and work titles.

“And now…….this’ is commonly used on radio and television newscasts to indicate what one has just heard or seen has no relevance to what one is about to hear or see. The phrase is a means of acknowledging the fact that the world is mapped by the speeded-up electronic media has no order or meaning and is not to be taken seriously. There is no murder so brutal, no earthquake so devastating, no political blunder so costly – for that matter, no ball score so tantalising or weather report so threatening – that it cannot be erased from our minds by the newscaster saying, “And now……this”. The newscaster means that you have thought long enough on the previous matter (approximately forty-five seconds), that you must not be morbidly preoccupied by it (let us say, for ninety seconds) and that you must now give attention to another fragment of news or a commercial.

- Neil Postman Amusing ourselves to death.

Following on from the Carnival is over works, the first of the new works was drawn from images taken when in Taipei. Grotteschi for brethren of the lower man I and II take the hanging displays of soft toys as their reference to use grotesque as a reference to something that simultaneously invokes in an audience a feeling of uncomfortable bizarreness or anxiety, as well as sympathetic pity.

There are subtle references in the ‘grotteschi’ images to a couple of my favourite artists and their works, most notably Hieronymus Bosch for the concept around ‘The garden of earthly delights’ and the visual effects and dramatic use of chiaroscuro of the artist Caravaggio (often called tenebrism, a dominant stylistic element, transfixing subjects in bright shafts of light and darkening shadows), and though ‘photorealistic’ as my painting style continues to reflect (excuse the pun) the aggregates could also be considered within the ‘all over abstraction’ genre [Uniform treatment of all sections of the surface are the hallmark of all-over painting. All-over paintings lack a dominant point of interest].

Since the death of my wife in 2020 my images seem to have multiplied and a significant evaluation of earlier paintings will see a preference for singular objects depicted, however since 2020 my work has become object plane full.

I am uncertain or unwilling to delve into the psychology behind this change and leave that for future art historians to fathom.

Over my career I have almost exclusively relied on referencing my own photographic images for my work, having tens of thousands of images, however this body of work relies heavily on images sourced from online auction sites. The randomness of material staged for photographic affect intrigues me in the same way as the randomness of relaying a degraded ‘information discourse’ via social media and newscasts does.

Lot 155. Only in extinction does the collector comprehend, And now, leaks less, along with And now, memories of Terry, boy oh boy!.... all use images from online auction catalogues as reference material. The first of these, a box of barbie dolls and other like dolls, has a contrived ‘naughtiness’ to the staging. In And now, leaks less, we see a configuration of cars which could be from any toybox anywhere in the world.

And now, memories of Terry, boy oh boy!.... is titled for childhood friend Terry who was the Lincoln Toy face in all the TV and paper advertising. The smiling face of the boy who had every toy, but a dark heart. _______________________________

You can see these works at Woodings@Winchester Gallery 155 Temuka-Orari Highway, Winchester 7985 Thursday - Sunday: 10am until 4pm Or reach out directly to for a private viewing.

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