Oakville Galleries in Gairloch Gardens
The matter of how to speak to painting in contemporary art is revisited with fair regularity. As viewers, determining where meaning lies within painting, and its varied forms of representation, often feels like a maze of dead ends that we knowingly keep choosing to enter. This labyrinth of response is built from paths of knowledge and experience—historical, phenomenological and structural—paths that embody the excitement of hope and the failure of expectation. With his exhibition for Oakville Galleries, London (ON) based artist Ben Reeves takes us through a quest to understand how meaning arises and functions in painting.
With each work Reeves presents us with a number of possibilities: We can find meaning by acknowledging in a classical way the artist's skill, the narrative content, even the beauty of a work. Simultaneously we can approach from more semiological positions in which meaning lies in the intricate system of signs and symbols with which Reeves layers his surfaces.
The concise body of work encompassed by Drawing Painting shares the unusual strategy of utilizing paintings as studies for drawings. However varied in form and content, each initial composition in paint acts as fair ground for Reeves to perform his meticulous exploration through a new work. Scouring the physical surface of each painted image, Reeves delineates single brush strokes with a rigorous complex of drawn contour line. Held within the palimpsests of his practice, Reeves's exhaustive attention to surface surprisingly always reveals a depth of multiple layers of meaning and reference held between the lines of source and copy.
While Drawing Painting does not exhibit Reeves's source material, his finished drawings certainly embody the gestures of his sources. More than this however, Reeves's lines depict a hyper-rationalization, a need to understand gone askew. With his obsessive analyses, a paradox in the desire for knowledge through representation is exposed. In the end, Reeves's investigations are overwhelmed by abstraction—referring back to the search procedure itself—and we come to see ourselves, looking at painting.
Curated by Kim Simon