A DISCREET VESSEL
The painting practices of Callum Innes, Günter Umberg and Jude Rae share qualities that are uncommon in an increasingly glib visual culture. Against a relentless tide of overblown scale and theatre standing in for more critical judgement, each of these artists’ approach “making” clear in the knowledge that every consideration of composition, touch and finesse accumulates to find expression in individual paintings but also extends across the deeper practice.
Rae has long painted vessels – mostly familiar yet modest objects, objects that allow her to skirt the easy seduction of metaphor and symbolism but also to avoid the kinds of flourish and trickery that some feel painting owes the viewer.
In this sense Rae’s works are inherently modest and yet as paintings they are anything but that. Her approach in many respects takes painting backwards to go forwards – seeking to re-invest it with an atmosphere, a classical containment and poise and to empty it of the needless bravura more attention seeking painters revel in.
This quiet discretion is equally evident in the paintings of Callum Innes. It might also be said that Innes too has long painted vessels – containers of pigment and gesture that are then carefully decanted leaving the residues and the sediments of gesture and time. This balancing act between accumulation and erosion is fundamental to his works be they Exposed Paintings or Monologues, indeed any of his beautifully orchestrated series.
In both works in the exhibition we see what was once an open field that has had layers of pigment laid down methodically and carefully so that the painting begins as a saturated body, the paint extending from flank to flank. Once established this surface is then sensitively ‘un-painted’, partially emptied – the extent of which is not pre-determined but is adjusted by intuition and feel.
Günter Umberg seems to fold and compress his materials so that a body of material that ought to breach the boundaries set by the support can be compressed to fit within the envelope of the vessel.
Umberg’s paintings, like those of Rae and Innes speak to an accumulation of information and material, a gathering of visual and conceptual data that is then held in place in these beautifully proportioned containers. His paintings meter time in their additive process holding this assembly in a state of active fusion. And yet against their resonance and fullness each of the paintings share another poignant attribute. These paintings speak to notions of presence and absence, of completeness and dissolution.
Andrew Jensen. 2016