GRAVITY prevents us from ever touching each other, skin-to-skin. What we feel in those intimate moments is a gravitational gap contouring the goose pimples and razor-shy downy of our bodies and egos. We are never really touching. Ever. Without gravity we would absorb each other; swallow each other whole. We are truly alone. I-s-o-l-a-t-e-d. 69 will never become 8—perhaps. The unmediated experience of art is what I am hoping to point towards if fail to touch upon here. No gravity, no context, no press release, no history; or history and reference missed or forgotten in the experience of art as experience. Two days, two artists, a day and world apart: Forrest Bess and Amanda Doran presented paintings that posited the possibility of an unmediated art experience. On leaving Forrest Bess at Modern Art London the “Tun” in The Hat and Tun, the pursed diamond in The Indian Wrap Co., the jazzy star in Pret a Manger, the white hallelujah hands on the numberless tower clock, the wisp and wash of chimney smoke and jet streams against a blue day, all this foregrounded my consciousness, signifying words had failed me in the gallery. And that failure had followed me outside among the nameless and numberless. Next day I projected images of the Bess exhibition onto a 4K cinema screen for students. Forget Instagram, this screen, this state-of-the-art technology, had no hope of transmitting the weight and attitude of Bess’ touch, resting in peace and pieces on primed shores where pencil marks still sign the sand 50 years on. Or the weathering: cracks and splits and no doubt forced restoration efforts giving Bess’ painting a complexity that it never had, or killing its directness year upon year upon year as old paint imitates old skin. Day before Bess, words failed me again in an artist's studio—Amanda Doran’s. Outside, jettisoned bags litter the hallway; inside students bump into the gravities of each other while avoiding bumping into the gravities of Amanda’s paintings. Feeling swallowed by the mouths, the vaginas and the gouged eyes of her paintings, as if the slovenly oil paint, so heavy and round, was creating its own orbit, we became furniture, Amanda’s paintings the pulse. New paintings, or new paintings 6-years-in-the-making (2012 being the last time I was last swallowed by Amanda's paintings in her exceptional Degree show at NCAD), Amanda has, what Frances Bacon liked to call, “emptied out”. Today in this studio, tomorrow beneath the nameless and numberless, gravity's cushion slipped from the bed, leaving me face-planted against painting’s promise to be itself, nothing else. This is the opposite of science.


I have written extensively on Forrest Bess: in relation to Manhood and biography here; and in reference to Daniel Rios Rodriguez here.


Forrest Bess through 1 December 2018; Amanda Doran opens at RHA Gallery January 2019.

so far…