Although seemingly working in disparate and differing ways both Alistair Frost and Gerda Scheepers focus their practices on a certain kind of motif-making. By applying imagery as short-hand for either their own art-making processes and specific cultural signs and figuration, both artists explore the medium of painting.
Scheepers presents a new set of work; four paintings on black fabric, with the paintings deriving their motifs from another work, a large drawing titled ‘Relations before Form’ 2010. In search of a motif which holds both formal and narrative possibilities, Scheepers has looked to a very specific scene as one of the drawing’s main elements; that of the situation before shooting a love-scene in a film.
The figures, together with the abstract elements which were designed around them, were intended to become a motif, a picture that, although implementing depth and layers, eventually is read or seen as a single sheet of written pictures. Although starting out as cut-outs, which implies that the image continues and is part of a larger whole, the four paintings are intended to be concentrated and self-contained. Through the selection of their frame and ‘translating’ them into painting, Scheepers aims to create two-dimensional works that resemble sign-painting.
Alongside this, the wall drawings, being figurative and planned at their starting point, shift through methodical gesture and move to abstraction, becoming so reduced and two-dimensional, that they almost become background. In addition Scheepers re-uses the moments and stages reached in the working process itself, where instead of being discarded are allowed to remain in the finished pieces. This is often illustrated in the crossed-out lines found in her work. Sometimes used to correct mistakes but also to correct ‘fake’ mistakes made for compositional purposes, sometimes simulating a taking back of what was said and sometimes used as ornament, the lines are an applied method as well as a formal element at the same time.
Using imagery derived from making generic searches for ‘ClipArt,’ Frost’s work presents pictures of pictures. Choosing aspects that relate to leisure, particular styles, lifestyles and emotions – hi-fi speakers, a cocktail glass and dollar signs for example, these accessories and emblems of a contemporary bourgeoisie are downloaded, recalibrated and updated. Whilst acknowledging the seductive qualities of a certain palette or fluid draftmanship, the work in turn poses questions about its own making, its potential and its consumption.
The imagery that is used is essentially a symbol, a stand-in for something else or ‘the real thing’, where opening drinks and gallery chatter become as much the subject at stake. A type of branding and codification locates the work within the historical genre of painting and allied with an apparent speed of making we see Frost pitching contemporary methods of image making alongside a historically layered medium.
Both artists utilise repetition and often work within series or groupings of work and repeating motifs, imagery and gesture. For this exhibition, both Scheepers and Frost have made works which have interlinking symbols and it is important to view them as such; for Frost the presentation of the paintings is a way not only to understand the works in relation to each other but to create a tension within them. Often titles are used to upset the balance: what we see is not what we read and so on and we are left not quite understanding the mood or the joke. The signs and signifiers are remixed through cut, copy and paste with the results actively pursuing ambiguity.
For Scheepers, ‘arranging’ is at the focal point of her practice, where works within an exhibition show each other’s making, other exhibition plans, sketches and working environments such as studios and apartments are depicted. Works act in some senses, as note-taking, not only drawing attention to themselves, but each other. In Frost’s work the creative act itself is illustrated in the depiction of a paint tube, brushes, scissors and stretchers etc, presenting a workaday foil that belies the champagne and sushi bar camouflage.