Corke Art Gallery: Politics of Beauty, 30th Aug – 29 Sep
Chrissy Collinson, Paul Collinson, John Elcock & Josie Jenkins
Dates: Preview: 29 August 2018, 7 – 9pm Exhibition: 30 August – 28 September 2018
Venue: Corke Art Gallery, 296 – 298 Aigburth Road, Liverpool L17 9PW
This exhibition brings together four artists from both ends of the M62 whose works can be said to deal in some way with the idea of beauty and its political connotations. Western beauty is still epitomized in the Ancient Greek ideal of the smooth and perfect human figure, usually naked to emphasize the unblemished skin and smooth curves of youth.
Edmund Burke famously surmised in 1756 that beauty is usually inherent in smallness, smoothness and delicacy in a social context, thereby connoting feminine sexuality and love. E F Schumacker posited in 1973 that economically ‘small is beautiful’, especially ‘as people mattered’. The ideal of beauty and its aesthetic has been appropriated by contemporary consumer society using images of ‘beauty’ to sell everything and anything, from cars to holiday destinations, from lipstick to mobile phones, and from lifestyles to relationships. In doing so beauty becomes politicized.
But what happens to beauty when nature and time happen? Pleasing decay, the picturesque beauty that is captured in Chrissy Collinson’s paintings and drawings is what happens. As art objects they are certainly beautiful and jewel like, being small and perfectly detailed. But the subject matter depicted is the effect of entropy – time and nature – and the roughness and irregularity it creates on the unseen urban architecture and landscape within the city: the city in this case being Chrissy’s home city of Hull. Chrissy’s work is supported using public funding by Arts Council England, and Hull City Council.
Liverpool based artist Josie Jenkins’ paintings reflect her time spent during residencies in the Chinese city of Xiamen, a city undergoing rapid industrialisation. It is a city is surrounded by a landscape of natural beauty and this can be glimpsed in Josie’s rendering of the city’s architecture set against a backdrop of distant hills and mountains: the manmade presence is in stark contrast to the beauty of the loosely painted blue and green hills. The compositions and paint become a metaphor for the changes the city as a whole is undergoing from the impact of western consumer society.
Paul Collinson uses the smoothness of the painted surface in his paintings to represent the hyper-real beauty of modern consumer society. Within the modern shopping centre is all that is beautiful and sexual, both virtually and real. Even the holiday destination of historic Middle Eastern ruins is not immune from the advertising industry’s sexualisation of celebrity and the Western standards of beauty.
John Elcock’s paintings provide the viewer with respite from the contemporary excesses of beauty aesthetics by finding a beauty in a ploughed field, and a lump of stone. By rendering a more contemplative landscape of the mundane, that ever present beauty that we ourselves can find is celebrated in a quiet manner. John’s paintings suggest a beauty that is based on more than appearances, and how beauty is something that invokes feelings of love.