Paul Winstanley

Jan Tumir


For the past three decades, British artist Paul Winstanley has been painting the future past-that utopian architectural imaginary of the post war years concretized in a range of quasi-public/quasi private milieus, from the airport to the hospital- making only the most incremental variations in his address of the subject matter from one show to the next. With this exhibition of eight oil paintings on linen, Winstanley remains consistent in his examination of modernity as a cultural phenomenon, but one that exceeds the narrower aesthetic parameters of modernism per se. The most obvious model for this work, in both substance and form, is, of course, the practice of Gerhard Richter. But whereas Richter delivers an exhaustive overview of the possibilities of painting today, a nearly complete remapping of the medium’s terrain for the post modern era, Winstanley restricts himself to a single path and then moves along it at a snails pace.

“Everything I see is in principle within my reach,: writes Maurice Merlea-Ponty in his 1961 essay ‘Eye and Mind,” and it is a maxim well suited to Winstanley, for whom seeing does lead to a kind of holding, or at least a very strong sense of beholding. Coordinating the work of the eye with that of the hand, he produces a convincing photorealist tableau that is at once a two dimensional image and a physical record of his own observing. And Winstanley’s refined illusionism exploits this two-sidedness to the hilt in work that at first appears static, like a kind of window, only to become subtly activated – as I want to say, enervated- as we begin to see the image as a reflection of seeing itself. But if everything Winstanley paints is, in one sense, “within his reach,” it is typically rendered as though receding from his touch with a gentle hazing of contour. The influence of Richter is evident here, and not just in the blurring, but in the way it demonstrates the painters distance from the object. However, whereas for Richter this strategy points to where photography’s technologically extended vision breaks down, for Winstanley, photo mediation is almost irrelevant; his compositions are more often than not framed so that the rest of the world is abruptly cut off at the edges, as if he’s already internalized camera vision.


Art Forum, December 2010