Tate Modern’s latest blockbuster explores the connections between painting and performance since the 1950’s and how the two media have influenced one another.

Divided into two halves, the first is a historical voyage through movements that have combined and utilized painting and performance and starts with Jackson Pollock and David Hockney. Each artist’s work, including Hockney’s famous painting, after which the exhibition is named, is shown alongside a video demonstrating the artists’ methods. Hans Namuth’s film of Pollock showcases the performative methodology of Pollock’s work and the painting, instead of being displayed on the wall, is lying down in the position that Pollock created his work. The exhibition then continues by looking at Viennese Actionism, the movement known for using provocative actions with painted bodies, floors, walls and blood. The exhibition then examines the way paint can be used as a means of transformation, looking at artists such as Cindy Sherman.

The second half looks at how recent artists have responded and explored the notion of painting after the historical performative explorations previously considered. These contemporary artists include Marc Camille Chaimowicz, who explores the boundary between installation and paint, and Slovenian collective IRWIN.

Do we view a painting as an object…

The exhibition re-examines how we approach a painting. Do we view a painting as an object before us or do we approach it as a record of a previous event, the painter’s performance with the brushstrokes being the residue?

Do we, or can we, get past the fact that a painting is a record of a performance and does it matter if we can’t? Can painting, like a video of a performance, be documentation and at the same time be something more?

…statements not questions…

However the exhibition did feel like an expensive way to list the ways painting and performance interact and, at times, crowded with too many pieces.  The exhibition, although displaying interesting historical interactions between painting and performance, doesn’t quite fulfill its quest in the contemporary investigations. The rooms that explore the current notions of painting and performance feel like statements not questions. Instead of a list, a juxtaposing of different experiments and emphases could be more stimulating.

The most thought – provoking display in this exhibition is at the start: in the interaction between the horizontal painting by Jackson Pollock and the film which examined his performative process, and documented it with the same methodology that many performance artists have recorded their work. This exhibition does raise questions, but ones that have been asked before. Instead of a list, there needed to be questions asked of the pieces in the exhibition.  

A Bigger Splash: Painting After Performance is at Tate Modern until 1 April 2013

About The Author

Jessica Bunyard is an artist and writer. Her practice explores colour and music, using photography, film, photograms, performances and collaborations. Bunyard formed the performance group The Sculptural Orchestra which involves members improvising using metal sculptures as instruments and photographs as visual scores. @TheScOrchestra Jessica Bunyard has exhibited in numerous events including: 'Salon II' at Forman's Smokehouse Gallery from the 1st December to the 29th January and 'Perception' an exhibition in aid of RNIB at Bermondsey Project Space from the 18th August to the 25th August 2012

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