|Abstract or Description:
Simon Bedwell's second solo show at MOT international opens Friday 4th September in a newly-expanded gallery space. Building on previous exhibitions Gents…(2005) and Asphalt World (2009), this new show counterpoints a terse mise-en-scene conflating existential expressionism, décor and misogyny, with a histrionic near self portrait derived from the later work of George Grosz .
In the main gallery space, a set of objects evoke style and violence, sincerity and rhetoric, in almost equal measure. For the wall-size Untitled (Background) Bedwell revisits pour-painting, saddled with the knowledge that even were good faith possible, it would still read as quotation: be destined, like his The Chair of the Painter of the Hole, Booth or Ashtray, despite their devastation, and like anything in any art gallery - to decorate.
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In the second space is a conflation of Grosz's preposterous angst with a contemporary, fully equivocal maleness, Forties Man: Fashions in Trauma 1948-2009. This adjusted transcription of Painter of the Hole (uprooted) had the artist blushing, alone in the studio, brush in hand, so gauche did even copied expression feel.
The artist has known Grosz's Hole work since adolescence. It was always a bit embarrassing with its histrionic, comical expressionism: as silly as The Scream, but more vacillating. But it is nagging, compelling work precisely because of this, speaking as it does of Big Themes, war and the impotence of art (not Lack, tellingly) with such ingenuous, graphic directness. Why it is that we find so very embarrassing art which, with a touching belief in unmediated communication, presumes to address us in language not safely, expectedly ironised? We treat such attempts at contact as we might pub bores or street beggars, hurrying away sheepishly.
Paglia was right to name tragedy a male mode (she could have included its suburban cousin melancholy, too): maybe it's an idiocy lying in wait for anyone venturing away from the required visible credential, 'critical distance'. With artistic possibilities stifled by consumer-led consensus, where to look for a way out of this mannered circumscription? Bedwell seeks in the atmosphere of the forties something useable, which ventures emotion, if only rhetorically and at the cost of comedy - for an artist in his 40s.