FANTASTIK PLASTIK, 2016
Fantastik Plastik, as the title suggests is an accented, heady celebration of the colour-form poised in swirling motion. In this body of work created by Anya Pesce, rectilinear monochrome painting has left the wall, dressed itself up in its brightest and shiniest paint skins and entered the gallery space in a skirt-lifting dance. If painting were a skin, or drapery rippling over skin, these works celebrate the liquidity of paint spreading over a surface. It is a deliberately sensuous show, and in this seduction by formal norms of beauty, it gently coaxes the viewer from the position of gazer to that of consumer.
For here, surface, colour and form are united in plastic in an exhibition that plays with the idea of what contemporary painting is. We can say that it is abstract, non-objective, about colour and form and our perception of those things, but we live in an age of plastic, so much more baggage to look at paintings with.
Plastic is the colour. Anya works with ready-made colour, selecting those intense, saturated hues that evoke the aesthetics of the display counter or buy-me packaging. In the works, there is a tendency to replicate the colours of specifically female-targeted consumerism; of cosmetics, lipsticks and handbags. Or it could be that she just likes bright colour. And a lot of it is red. After all, she isn’t using actual red lipstick, as L.A. artist Rachel Lachowicz does, but perhaps she may as well be. The painting pouts.
Plastic is the process. Starting with a rectangular flat piece of heated plastic (poly methyl methacrylate), the warm, malleable substance is coaxed, manipulated and posed – much like paint – into rippling folds and waves, in which the process itself determines the composition. The result is that the formerly austere, flat monochrome planes have given way to theatrical gestures. Their forms now allude to draped fabric, maybe in homage to virtuosic painterly tradition, or the runway. The painting strikes a pose.
Plastic is the medium. The ultimate invention of the post-industrial technological age, it is the material of packaging, display and waste. Freed of the frame, plastic is, unlike paint, a skin that is brittle enough to provide its own support. It is strong and durable. It fills landfill and whale’s stomachs. Yet it is beautiful, repeatable, desirable and available in a full range of opaque and transparent colours. The painting is product; at once desirable and dangerous.
Plastic is the surface. In describing her research interests, Anya herself mentions a “finish fetish.” Like a video or mobile phone screen, the immaculate glossy surfaces reflect us back into itself. In a warped pastiche of another ancient mimetic function of painting the surface-as-screen becomes an “idea less of flow than of intensities”, an arena of “transmission rather than embodiment”i. Paradoxically, this suggestion of dematerialisation is achieved through the very thing a screen can’t reproduce – the transmission site is a body of plastic. The object of transmission – the work - is resolutely a material thing.
What does this mean for contemporary painting? Is it, perhaps that the certainties of abstract monochrome paintings as the clean, minimal sign for painting has slipped, perhaps messily, into a world of commodification, of lipstick, whale stomach contents and selfie poses.
- Lisa Pang, April 2016