Colour my world
Is it art or computer-aided design? Deedee Cuddihy looks for hidden meaning in an international collection of abstracts.
Is painting dead? Has it been killed off by new technology and popular culture? No to both questions, says Ralf Christofori, and to prove it he has curated an exhibition of paintings by a dozen international artists, all in their thirties, many of them inspired by computer games and comics.
This uplifting show of jolly, colourful and lighthearted work, with titles such as Mashed Potatoes and Eee-rr ... pffp, was first mounted in Germany last year. It has been redesigned especially for the Dundee Contemporary Arts gallery, its only UK venue.
The 30 paintings on display, some of them big enough to cover an entire wall, could all loosely be described as abstract but of the type that positively invites visitor reaction. These intriguing works are mostly executed in such a simple style that children and adults may be inspired to have a go themselves.
The paintings are spread over four galleries, starting in a medium-sized room with works by a Norwegian, a German and an American. Some Primary 7 pupils were particularly interested in a Nils Gjerdevik canvas covered in thousands of tiny, brightly coloured computer-type squares (a bit sore on sensitive eyes) in which, one boy insisted, you could definitely see a face if you stood back far enough.
In the main gallery next door, it looked very much as if American artist Monique Prieto had created most of her pictures by taking tubes of paint for a walk across the canvas, but according to a sheet of programme notes, her work is computer-assisted. The fact that more information about the artists was not available right beside the paintings is my only criticism of this excellent show.
Although I didn't particularly like Jennifer Reeves's work, I couldn't help being intrigued by her technique, which suggested she had used nothig more high-tech than a domestic icing bag and nozzles to apply the paint. In some places it was at least an inch thick and looked good enough to eat. Apparently, I was right, she had used icing equipment, according to one of the gallery assistants.
All of the attendants are art school graduates and love to discuss the work with visitors. In fact, so accomplished are these graduates that one was drafted in to "fill in" for Arturo Herrara. The Venezuelan artist couldn't get to Dundee himself, so his huge, cartoon-inspired figures were projected on to a wall and meticulously painted in by proxy.
Two companion pieces by Takashi Murakami are real show-stoppers, not only because of their size - each is approximately 16 feet long by 10 feet - but also their subject matter, which is deceptively simple. One is called Cream, the other Milk, and the artist has painted a splash of one across a pink background, and a splash of the other - subtly different in colour and form - across a blue background. The P7 visitors already knew a bit about traditional Japanese art and could see that Murakami had drawn on both it and modern Japanese cartoon culture for his paintings.
Trying to make sense of more abstract works, the P7s reckoned they could see a female shape in one of a group of paintings by London-based artist Fiona Rae. My own take on her works, which are black with rich sweeps of colour and computer game titles such as Creature, Shadow Master and Evil Dead II, was that the ink had exploded in her printer.
In an exhibition like this, everyone is entitled to their opinion.
* A number of "Colour Me Blind!" gallery talks and workshops for children and families are being held now until July 16. In addition, screenprinting and T-shirt workshops for teenagers will take place from July 18-27. Dundee Contemporary Arts's education officer, Sarah Derrick, has produced a thought-provoking activity sheet which visitors can ask for at the reception desk. For further information contact DCA, tel 01382 432000