In this show, Turning It Over, at the Ashford Gallery, RHA, Melissa O’Faherty works with a certain elegant violence to ‘turn painting over’. This is painting as challenge and as such we have the chance to experience something remarkably ambitious in terms of today’s contemporary painting, and indeed art world. But ambitious painting is a strange paradox in that truly ambitious contemporary painting has a tendency to disappear. That is to say that painting at its most desiring seems to sit as a background or ground for more exciting artistic activities, its longing acts as a basis or foundation for other claims to attention. This wallflower effect, this hanging back, might well be a defining feature of painting’s ability to act, a somewhat fugitive, unconscious power.
Letting it be is part of what is on offer here. These paintings act, often against themselves, certainly against illusions and so can set the stage for manifold artistic and indeed philosophical events. They offer us the chance to change our minds and think. This I feel is the ambition in play. And yet so easy to live with. The now grand old painter Willem de Kooning spoke of his paintings as being ‘slipping glimpses’ and of himself as a ‘slipping glimpster’ and Andy Warhol turned the offhand and throwaway into a fine art, so O’Faherty’s attack on painterly form (Pressing, disfiguring, letting paint be amongst other tactics) has form.
This is the elegance that dominates overall. The mask that enables us to enjoy the very illusion that is simultaneously being ‘turned over’. Above all these paintings offer time to think. Phil King, Artist/writer.
Visit website www.melissaofaherty.com to read accompanying exhibition essay by Phil King.