Above image – ‘As above, so below’ by Richard Kirwan. Acrylic on canvas, 2007. Image Source.
“An Artist who makes paintings” is how Richard Kirwan labels himself when introducing this week’s Gravity Lecture. Kirwan dislikes the history and restriction of being called ‘A Painter’, which I can agree with, I always say I’m a multi-disciplinary artist as I don’t want to restrict myself.
He started the lecture by stating he would be referring back to the year 1964 a lot due to his admiration for Andy Warhol, a very clear influence to Kirwan who he discussed and compared to throughout the lecture. Kirwan discussed Warhol’s, ‘The American Supermarket 1964’, which he compared to Frieze Art Fair explaining it feels like a supermarket to him, although I haven’t been to Frieze I can imagine the resemblance, selling art like a product. He continued presenting more of Warhol’s works/images including Brillo Soap Pad Boxes, The Factory 1964, Women wearing dresses with Warhol prints on in the factory. From this he started to make points about Warhol and what he found admirable
- Equivalence – Warhol used real Brillo Boxes opposed to sculptures, “it’s the same as the real thing”.
- How the woman wore Warhol’s art on their arses (Kirwan seemed quite angry with this)
- Lack of care Warhol had with reference to the tomato juice boxes on the floor of the gallery opening
- Allen Midgette pretended to be Warhol in lectures (which Warhol consented to) and this caused uproar, Warhol replied, “But he’s so more beautiful than me”.
Although I enjoy when speakers present their influences this felt too much; borderline obsessive, which I have no problem with but it did feel too excessive and too heavy. He continued to present his works, ‘The indiscipline of painting’, an exhibition where Kirwan’s work, ‘Depth of Field ’ 2012, was hung aside Warhol’s ‘Eggs’ 1982 – a really proud moment for him and I could feel myself beam, knowing Kirwan had this opportunity to be placed beside his influences work, such acceptance is something all artists strive for.
Kirwan’s next group exhibition was, “Tell the children” 2012 at La Salle de Bains, Lyon, France. This was inspired by Warhol’s, ‘Painting for Children’ exhibition in 1983. At both these exhibitions the artworks were hung low for children’s height, which shows the idea of not being taken too seriously. ‘Curfew Zone’ was the piece he showed at Tell the children, a very ‘trippy’ piece, “comes out of the eyeballs then brain”, which is a running theme in Kirwan’s work. This exhibition was very much for the child but not necessarily of this generation, Kirwan’s feel like the optical illusion books that became popular in his era and another Artist, Francis Bauderin, created Wallpaper from the cartoon Tin Tin in the 1930’s to 1970’s, so it seems that this exhibition was for children of the past.
To discuss Kirwan’s paintings further, they are extremely precise, something that could easily be made graphically but hand painted would take a lot of time – they appear perfect, visually reminiscent of’ Op Art’ era.
This is seen in his painted piece ‘Herald’ 2013, pictured above, it has a great contrast of colour, and effective use of composition to achieve three dimension. Kirwan does also make digital work, but to help him as a means of planning. He compared this idea to how Warhol used screen-printing; technology enables.
I’ve found out a lot about Warhol in this lecture, which is great, I admire his works greatly too but this is a problem for me. I feel Kirwan has created work directly for Warhol, using his ideas, which is great but it is just too much. I left the lecture feeling as though it was a biography of Andy Warhol rather than the artist.
Finally Kirwan finished his lecture by answering the dreaded question, “Is painting dead?” to which he answered,
“I don’t care if it’s dying, limping or dead, I create work that question and confuse you. Painting is a niche activity, just like installation, video etc”. Very well said.