Paul Winstanley
Mitchell-Innes and Nash.  

Barbara Pollack

Paintings based on photographs often deaden the vivacity of the original image. But British artist Paul Winstanley proves that this need not be the case. In pursuing this approach, he has been able to add layers of meaning to ordinary snapshots. In this show, featuring depictions of bland urban environments that nonetheless offer moments of transcendence, viewers experience an eerie sense of voyeurism.

Departing from his usual focus on blank landscapes and empty rooms, Winstanley added people to his scenes. In Man Talking (2011), the figure faces away from the camera, conversing on a cell phone. In Enclosure (2011), a man in a gray suit sneaks a cigarette in the greenery abutting a boxy modern office building. Like figures in a Caspar David Friedrich painting, these characters are immersed in their own worlds. This is especially evident in the painting Jesus is Coming (2011), depicting an older white man standing and a middle-aged black man resting on a bicycle at the top of a park stairway; both are gazing at something completely out of view.

Winstanley’s approach to nature is never entirely natural. In Fuse 1 (2011) and Fuse 2 (2011), he shows two close-ups of a dewy spider web, glistening and reflecting in ways that can only be captured by a camera. And in City Moon (2011), he creates his own version of Ansel Adams’s Moonrise, Hernandez (1941), with a pale moon rising above an evergreen tree that overlooks an expansive, glittering cityscape. But, even when civilization is entirely out of view, Winstanley conveys the sense of nature mediated by human presence, first when he picks up a camera and then brush and later when we, the audience, observe these scenes as invited intruders.


Art News, October 2011