Phil Gatenby

The decision to make paintings confers immediate consequence in the approach adopted in Phils practice. The defaults set for himself are positional assertions that help assure this quixotic act (to make paintings) remains critically overt. Working his way into depicting ideas reflects a yet to be understood fixation with materiality, flatness and concealment. Sitting alongside these preoccupations the paint surface, paint ground and colour patina take shape as trajectories of spatial exclusion. To be working at a time when post-theory as a term of reference has currency is exciting. he is selective about gallery visits and exhibitions he journey to and his definition of ‘must see’ shows has the expectation to incite his studio preoccupations.

Having taken the opportunity to work full time in the studio this year making sense of ‘where am I and what am I doing’ feels like starting from zero. Making visits to see new work reveals itself as especially pertinent: Making Matters Platform A Gallery (Middlesbrough), David Lynch ‘Naming’ at mima (Middlesbrough), Real Painting, Castlefield Gallery (Manchester), John Chamberlain Inverleith House (Edinburgh), Toby Paterson, Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, Phyllida Barlow, Fruitmarket Gallery (Edinburgh) and ‘All The World’s Futures’ (56th Venice Biennale) returning most vividly through the work of Adrian Ghenie and Isa Genzken. Similarly, hearing presentations at conference such as: Painting in Time, The Tetley (Leeds) and Teaching Painting, Whitworth Gallery (Manchester) remind me the trigger word painting is in my radar and no one works in a vacuum. Listening is good. Visits to see Goya Portraits at London’s National Gallery and Bill Viola’s The Trial (2015) at YSP (Wakefield) are both a must…

Source material is otherwise chaotic and things flow from this apparent disorder. Questions posed through the rewiring of social theory (articulated by Zygmunt Bauman as a liquid-modernity) are peculiarly settling for me and are enduringly present through the narrative voice Bauman uses to advance his ideas. My re-making of his perception gives purpose to lost-ness and gives me a place to stand. Typographic matter (whether sitting or standing on the page) retains an intrigue and the delightful prospect of visiting new places, usually cities, represents further work for my eye to do.  

As a foil to allowing myself to feel displaced by stories of diminished territories for acts of cultural production the opportunity to rent a studio space in Peterlee is a joy. Working in Peterlee means that each journey from the outskirts into the town centre studios (Lee House) engages with late modernist ambition and the legacy of the 1956 exhibition: This Is Tomorrow at Whitechapel Gallery (including Victor Pasmore and Alison & Peter Smithson, to name but three). My thoughts about the seeds of momentum that urge thirty-eight arts practitioners to work together, as independent thinkers, to make one single work, speak volumes about invested collaboration and interconnectivity. The curatorial decision to re-present This is Tomorrow at Whitechapel Gallery (2010) is insightful as a nudge to recalibrate an appreciation of cultural capital in our dealings with fifth wave technological change.