Is seeing really believing? The works at Maureen Paley depict common studio scenes. Seven new works are displayed in the East London gallery, each appearing firstly as photographs from a short distance.
Their purpose is intriguing. It is unclear who these studios belong to and why Andrew Grassie would choose them as a subject matter. Observing the works means getting as close as possible to each piece, and as the eye focuses precisely on detail, the realisation that these are not photographs but paintings, astonishes and raises even more questions.
Andrew Grassie is a Scottish painter working on small scaled photorealistic tempera renderings. In this series, the paintings’ frame format is 24.3×30.7 cm. He uses photographs to recreate the scenes which are either his own compositions or borrowed. He has arranged the spaces to recreate fictitious artists’ studios within his own personal studio.
The artist has left apparent details untidy. Paper draft balls are left next to the bin, newspapers and magazines lay open on the floor and couch, and lights are kept switched on not solely for the purpose of illumination but perhaps to materialize the presence of the owner.
Various personalities emerge upon contemplation of the studios. Graphic designer, set designer, painter, or writer are the anonymous occupants’ imaginary jobs gathered by the clues left behind by Grassie.
The aura emanating from each piece is baffling. More than just a perfect execution of realism, it transpires an entire atmosphere. Is each painting the original photograph? We will never know.
Grassie goes further and plunges viewers into a peculiar ambiance. A ‘white’ filter appears to float on each painting’s surface, giving the scenes an opaque dimension. Each studio is immersed in a compact silence reminiscent of the sound of steps on fresh snowfall.
The subtle game of light confers intimacy to the entire series. Each glimpse of brightness is contrasted by a shadow or a dark piece of furniture. The semi-luminosity inherent to each space unveils in a similar manner as the details left behind; the presence of a ‘real’ person and not just the fabrication of a location.
In a day and age where photography is taken for granted, over used by a novice population, Grassie’s work seems to interrogate the medium’s nature and its purpose. Is photography reality’s duplicate or is it a distortion of how reality appears through the creative mind of the photographer?
One thing is certain, more photographers are challenging a jaded public. James White in his monochrome paintings exhibited at the moment at Blain Southern London appears to tackle the same problematic.
It is interesting to blur the line between photography and painting. The confusion compels introspection, questions and at times forces to redefine the intentions of an entire means of expression.
Andrew Grassie at Maureen Paley (18 November – 07 January 2018)