Jonathan Wateridge: David Risley Gallery.
These are unapologetically escapist works, and what at first they seem to be escaping from is modernism itself, which, for painters like Wateridge, fellow Brit George Shaw, and many others, has reached the twenty-first century virtually dead on arrival. These decaying ships and smashed airplanes are, from this perspective, nothing other than the very carcasses of modernism, decomposing in some pre-global-warming nature--a potent cosmos still capable of destroying humankind instead of the other way round. In Capra's Lost Horizon, victims of a plane crash find themselves marooned in the mountain paradise of Shangri-la; while some of the lost party insist they must find a way back to civilization, others ask, Why? Why not remain here in Eden? Likewise, Wateridge seems to ask, Why go back to tired old modernism, particularly its manifestation in late Conceptualism, when history is teeming with beautiful pictures? The ragged, crisscrossed lines of blue paint forming the ship's seaweed-covered rigging on the very top layer of The Wreck of the Constitution may, surprisingly, recall Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles, 1952, but they are separated, conceptually, not by fifty years but by a hundred--with Wateridge's neo-romanticist paintings paradoxically predating Pollock by about a century. Yet Wateridge's emphatic theatricality suggests that the idealized nineteenth-century landscape is as suspect as modernism for the misguided illusions of the Absolute which they share. Wateridge's paintings are intelligent fictions on many levels; it is for this reason that they are so absorbing, rather than merely anachronistic.
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|Date:||Feb 1, 2007|
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