Scatter – William Stein

William Stein
6th – 28th Mar 2012

Open Wednesday to Sunday, 12noon – 6pm, or by appointment.
Private view: Thursday 1st March, 6 – 9pm.

In a kind of harlequinade, Stein’s new work presents the viewer with scenes from an archaic drama, the script laced with something darker, unfinished… ‘in fact an impossible end. An impossibility. A beginning and end wrapped up. Limbo… The condition we are all navigating.’

Without figures except for the geometric ones, the cubes and cylinders that recur enough for each new sighting to be a reappearance, characters coming back onstage, the various ways of approaching the surface themselves acquire narrative values. The ruled and the freehand, the sharp and the hazy, the painted and the scratched, the grey and the flickers of faint colour are all set against each other as if to retell a creation myth gone wrong – as they all do. The elemental is there, yes, but deformed, paint laid on the gesso but its plastery surface used to scratch into as well – graffiti’d pentimenti – a commentary suggesting that in our present tense Platonic forms have become provisional; reminding us that the ancient civilizations were after all new to time, hadn’t themselves lived long enough to truly understand how Time unravels (an enterprise Twombly set himself – but that’s another story, a quiet desperation of a different kind).

Yet without these paintings themselves being in the slightest unfinished, they present a perfect incompletion. Somewhere behind waiting in the darkness there remains the Ur-painting, unforgiving, inhuman – the image in its ideal state. The geometry is there to remind us: a triangle, yes, a circle, but now it’s perfect and now it’s not, it’s handmade, spidery, alive. What we can see is experience as we experience it, human fallibility almost cartoonish in its pathos.

Something unexpected is that there is philosophy here, maybe not in the sense of a theory of contemporary art or life or even of painting (though who’s to say?) but in the sense of a thinking-through made visible, a mappable joined-up view of what painting today could (not to say should) take into account. A use of materials to the limits of their competence (to cite Greenberg and his formulation of the Modernist endeavour). Painting as a way of happening, perhaps.

Where Poussin manipulated figures on model stages to gauge and unite gesture and emotion, Stein situates the meaning in the mise-en-scene itself, its mutability, its direct and physical relationship to the audience. Stripped of human presence, the scene carries a charge of intense intimacy, the scale of the making echoing the close immediate working of the surface. Anything could happen here, at any moment, forever: it’s the range of that suspended and sustained expectation that’s exciting. It could be the moment for Pasternak’s Hamlet, perhaps:

‘The tumults cease. I walk on to the stage …’

studio1.1 is pleased to present William Stein’s first solo show since graduating with Distinction from the Slade School of Fine Art (MFA Painting) in 2009, and his second at the gallery. Recent group exhibitions have included the Marmite Painting Prize national touring exhibition, ‘Afternoon Tea’ (WW Gallery, Venice Biennale collateral exhibition), ‘The Fort Painting Show’ (Fort, London), ‘State of the Newly Incarnate Soul’ (Hidde Van Seggelen, London), ‘No Soul for Sale’ (Tate Modern). Stein was shortlisted for the 2012 Jerwood Painting Fellowship. He lives and works in London.

studio 1.1

Further images of the work are on our Facebook page – click here
(you don’t need a Facebook account to view).

For more information or images contact:
Michael Keenan on 07952 986 696