This autumn, to coincide with the Sainsbury Wing exhibition Venice: Canaletto and his Rivals, the National Gallery
has invited contemporary artists Clive Head and Ben Johnson to display their work in two consecutive exhibitions in Room 1. Both artists paint the city, but for very different reasons, and with very different outcomes. The displays will reveal their motivations and working processes and their fascination with the legacy of Canaletto. In the second of these two displays, Ben Johnson will be completing one of his paintings in public.
Following the example of Canaletto, both artists combine and manipulate different views to make paintings that are completely convincing. Along with large-scale cityscapes including depictions of London landmarks Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square, preparatory drawings and photographs will be shown that will demonstrate how these two artists produce such apparently realistic paintings with differing techniques and tools.
Clive Head: Modern Perspectives
13 October - 28 November 2010
Clive Heads paintings are about space. More specifically they are about creating a credible space for the mode of being in the city. Meticulously crafted, they show all that is seen as we move around our environment.
Head is a painter who uses the camera as a tool when devising his compositions, but he rejects its static single-point perspective and creates an open and dynamic sense of space that is akin to the way we perceive the world as we move through it. A painting such as 'Haymarket', 2009, (Marlborough Fine Art, London) presents a span of nearly 300 degrees and encompasses views that are impossible to see from one single spot. Instead, as viewers we find ourselves passing through the arcade to look into the sunlight on Haymarket and into the shadows of the shop interior. Moving back we can then imagine ourselves taking a completely different direction down Piccadilly towards the famous statue of Eros in the distance.
In Canaletto, Head finds an artist who, like himself, might have used optical devices to record the world and to bring information into the studio, but through drawing and painting he interprets this information to invent an alternative reality. Heads painting 'Coffee at the Cottage Delight', 2010 (Marlborough Fine Art, London), presents his experience of being in a busy café in South Kensington and gives us a multitude of spaces to explore from both inside the café and out on the street. These situations are complex and full of human activity. The third painting on show, 'Leaving The Underground', 2010 (Marlborough Fine Art, London), originates in the artists movement up a staircase as he the leaves the fluorescent-lit passageway before stepping out into the rain at Victoria Station. Heads treatment of the neglected peeling paint that he sees as he moves up the stairs, and the textures of the walls, ceiling and steps, recalls Canalettos depictions of the shabbier side of Venice. Familiar and yet unique, these paintings invite us to enter them and return time and time again.
Clive Head is an intuitive painter who builds space through an accumulation of brush marks that establish form and rhythm, and his paintings open up radical new possibilities of representation in the 21st century.