‘I always mistrust everything which I see, which an image shows me, because I imagine what is behind it. And what is beyond an image cannot be known.’ — Michelangelo Antonioni
Parafin is pleased to announce the first group show in its exhibition programme. Blow Up will feature a group of leading and emerging painters including Hannah Brown, Hynek Martinec, Justin Mortimer, Issa Salliander, Jonathan Wateridge, Uwe Wittwer and Clare Woods. The exhibition will explore connections between contemporary painting and photography.
At the heart of Michelangelo Antonioni’s iconic swinging London film Blow Up (1966) is a disquieting meditation on photography, photographic images, truth and reality. The central character in the film, Thomas, a fashion photographer played by David Hemmings, takes candid shots of two lovers in a London park and then later, having developed the images, comes to believe that he has unwittingly photographed a crime. Successive enlargements of the images reveal what seems to be a body lying in the grass and a figure in the trees with a gun. Returning to the scene the photographer finds the body. But the next day the body has vanished, along with the supposed photographic evidence.
In 1970 Antonioni described his work as: ‘... like digging, it’s archaeological research among the arid materials of our times ...’ He could have been describing the landscape of contemporary painting.
Antonioni’s film here offers a framework for exploring aspects of that landscape, in particular the way many painters use existing images (photographs, digital files, other paintings) as source material. The way in which Antonioni’s protagonist mines the photographs he has taken, successively enlarging and thereby revealing previously hidden meanings, is analogous to the ways in which some painters work now. The information (meaning) hidden in the photographs is revealed by a process of excavation and mediation. In the studio, pre-existing images are deconstructed, reconstructed, fragmented, collaged, and finally rendered in paint, and this process reveals new possibilities — new images, new meanings — hidden within them. At the same time other approaches offer echoes of Antonioni’s preoccupation with artificiality and reality (for example his willingness to paint the grass of a park a particular shade of green to render it more ‘real’). An overt theatricality of construction reveals a fundamental untrustworthiness or unreliability which nonetheless might perhaps be more ‘true’.
The artists in the exhibition all work with paint and engage with pre-existing images. Some have made new work in direct response to Antonioni’s film while other works suggest echoes and thematic connections to the original film.