Cheung’s new paintings at Edel Assanti feature large romantic landscapes recalling that tradition of painting which included John Martin and Caspar David Friedrich. Primarily referencing the palette of photography, Cheung casts a technicolour glow over the landscapes populated with rock features, swampy valleys and windswept trees, and an epicentre of unnaturally brightened movement around the bull and its rider. The language of graphic enhancement seems appropriate here, as it is through the marriage of painterly knowledge and computer editing of digital imagery that Cheung’s unique vision is developed.
The machismo of the bull-riders set within these sparsely populated mountainous worlds, appears like an analogy to the artist’s own command of painterly material in the context of its intrinsically fluid and visceral make-up, an alchemical substance that transforms tracings of the action of the painter’s hand to solid illusory surface of an image. Slugs of colour are applied as seemingly soft, unsolid ‘fresh’ paint, implying movement of the central forms relative to their more static surrounds. Sunspots with their spray-flecked fringes inhabit defined sky-areas juxtaposed against inky silhouetted landforms. In Supercell, swirling lines describe the watery ground, picked out through sparing painterly intervention. Attention is drawn to the force of the bull’s movement, which appears to cause rainbowed worms of paint to fly into the depth of field of the painting’s surface. Cheung associates the movement of his subjects with the action of his technique, thereby linking the challenge of his materials with the imagined struggles of the paintings’ protagonists, within a setting of materially evocative surrounds.
The use of stock-listings newspaper sheets, previously exploited solely as tonal backdrop and implied conceptual comment, has now confirmed its position in Cheung’s lexicon of materials. Burnt for pigment, it now also contributes a craggy charcoal relief to areas of the paintings’ surfaces. Strata of papier mache pages made into ambiguously crafted objects, become reconstituted into a seemingly aged and wood-like material. Collaged onto the paintings’ surfaces these driftwood and stalactite-like forms maintain a separate quality, framing views into the landscapes depicted beyond them, more separate even than the craggy relief of the charcoal-material formed from the burnt paper. Unlike the previous seamlessness of their use as tonal flattened ground, insidiously incorporated into the beautiful material illusion of his painterly surfaces - the same building block is now transformed into more consciously applied constructions. For me this demonstrates a new sophistication in the use of the stock-listing sheets, building on their long-standing status within his practice, and re-confirmed as a truly integral language to Cheung’s work.
Gordon Cheung - The Solar Cry
25 October 2012 – 5 January 2013
272-274 Vauxhall Bridge Road