Interested Painting

Curated by Andreas Fischer and William Staples

Artists: Gillian Carnegie, Maureen Cavanaugh, Nigel Cooke, Holly Coulis, Verne Dawson, Duncan Hannah, Merlin James, James Sheehan, and Rezi van Lankveld

Interested Painting is an exhibition curated by Chicago painters Andreas Fischer and William Staples, who organized the show around a renewed interest in subjectivity and the painter’s individual approach. The exhibition proposes that many painters today either deny shared systems or invent a means for classifying their work. There was a mix of internationally known and emerging artists in the show, among them Gillian Carnegie (UK), Maureen Cavanaugh (NY), Nigel Cooke (UK), Holly Coulis (NY), Verne Dawson (NY/PA), Duncan Hannah (NY), Merlin James (UK), James Sheehan (NY) and Rezi van Lankveld (Netherlands). Most of the work was representational, including works in the figurative, landscape and still life genres.

Fischer and Staples saw “interest” (which, in traditional aesthetics, the philosopher Immanuel Kant believed would undermine beauty, ideals and truth) as a productive force because of its subjectivity. They believed that what seemed most irrelevant to the proposed exhibition painters was the idea that there had to be a shared structure, either an existing or new one. These artists seemed to be accepting the notion, as evidenced by previous generations, that shared structures fail at universality. So, why not just go with individual motives?

As Fischer and Staples put it:

The real question is one of meaning: what it is and where to find it. This question develops into a highly subjective stand in painting. The goals are not to establish an order, but to insist that no universal painting models apply. To explain through theoretically charged language or historical precedent becomes nothing more than a fancy apology for making paintings. This show demonstrates a strong belief that there is no reason to apologize for painting. The reasons for painting do not have to be clear.

Of course these ideas are not so new, but they seem to persist. What makes putting on a show of this type worthwhile is the specific work in its idiosyncrasy, in its unapologetic nature, and in the way it carries subjectivity forward. The clarity is in the paint.

Events during the run of the show included a curators’ gallery talk, an artists’ lecture and a roundtable discussion among the curators and other Chicago painters.