Saturday, 22 September 2012

Amikam Toren - Armchair Paintings

Amikam Toren Armchair Painting - Untitled (inner beauty)

 ‘What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or disturbing subject matter ... like a comforting influence, a mental balm – something like a good armchair in which one rests from physical fatigue’.
 Henri Matisse

Armchair Painting - Untitled (who needs 
actions when you got words) 2006  
Armchair Paintings is an ongoing series of works by Israeli/British artist Amikam Toren. 

Toren, who has been producing these works since 1989, sources original oil paintings from markets, car boot sales or second hand shops and lives with the work until he happens upon a suitable phrase to insert. The stencilled lettering is cut away from the canvas in a process of erasure rather than addition, spelling out appropriated phrases from graffiti, leaflets or signage. 

Sometimes uncanny, sometimes offensive, sometimes funny, the texts are always incongruous with the images behind them. Cutting through the image's focal point they are often somewhat confusing in a manner that one can imagine would please Belgian Surrealist René Magritte. This clashing of one world of banality with another lends a both the image and the text a strangeness that neither would have on its own. The works are funny at the same time as giving a knowing nod to their artistic precedents - Duchamp's readymades, Fontana's slashed canvases, the aforementioned Surrealists' play with mis-married words and images. 

The Matisse quote Toren references in the series' title is easily read as a defense, or even a call, for sappy leisure painting devoid of the kind any avant garde agenda or politics; it is worth noting that this was written in 1908 - a time when Matisse was widely derided and ridiculed by his artistic milieux for his radicality. The decorative and the avant garde are both present in these works, as is a questioning of the role of art in everyday life.

Armchair Painting - Untitled 2001

Armchair Painting - Untitled 1990