EMERGING from a wispy twilight a colonnade of people and trees and statues brushed with approaching cobalts and retreating cadmiums obediently stay in line and in episodic anticipation towards some out-of-reach and out-of-sight event in the woods beyond the hedgerow and red bricks. GOOD Grammar. Four years ago Colin Crotty’s painting burst onto my path like a stream of consciousness caught by the tail. I remember thinking curators will lap this up. They did. I did. At that time it seemed to make sense for one lone painter to paint groups of figures seeking or experiencing something that paint and canvas could not contain but could represent through social groups desiring together (and each other) in the absence of that big desire, that big Other. It was the cold distance between Crotty’s representations of time through social and relational bodies that let you imagine beyond the limitations of the internalised medium of painting. Crotty’s painting was reaching out, rubbing shoulders with the body, the social, desire, sex, even though the paint had dried and the process was still going on in the bedroom. Crotty’s paintings, then and now, divvy up painting between sex and love—“Don't get them mixed up!” s/he said. The minute you start marrying sex to love you are knee deep in language. No matter how many song lyrics romantically profess words are not enough in the expression of love, words are enough. We as viewers are trying to imagine sex in the gallery. But what’s being presented in the gallery is an offering to language. It’s ritual. We can of course verbally profess our love for painting as it dries on the gallery wall, like professing love as sex dries on the sheets, but painting-in-translation, like sex-in-translation, is not sweaty or sticky. Love is the Word. Sex ends with a word, usually “Love.” Like love and sex ‘painting’ is both noun and verb. In the studio painting is a verb; in the gallery, a noun. “Don't get them mixed up!” s/he said. Love and painting are filled with absence and desperation. It’s not the painter's or lover’s fault, it’s the game not the player. Thing is, painters aren’t wordy, their paintings are. But painters want love, and love and painting is misunderstood and argued through words. For instance, when you describe a painting as a “one-liner” to a painter you are asking for trouble. (Perhaps my opening procession of words as substitute for Crotty's painting is trying to do two things at once, a ‘worthy’ one-liner). Maybe a one-liner is too clever too fast too premature for the painter—–-uh.uh.uh.aaaaah.oh….. Good painting leaves gaps for words            ...lots of words, too many words. Painting wants the lexicon, painters the legacy. In other words, maybe if there were less words—more one-liners—painting would be better off: “I'm not going to write any more boring catalogue essays!” s/he said. Right now some writer is injecting words into the paper veins of an ecstatic painter with head arched back, Spidy wrists, and irisless white globes pulsing under scrunched genitalia eyelids. Considering the gaps in detail performed in his new paintings at Oonagh Young, Crotty is definitely looking for love. He’s got it. On my watch Crotty has never before blocked-in details of figures the way he does in these. Where once detail deflected our words, our desires, our imagination, these new paintings present comic chasms in detail. The gaps in contemporary art is where art resides. Like we always have, before words, the gap is where we, the world, get to crayon in details with words. At Oonagh Young we are presented with a verbal breeding ground of profiles, of silhouettes, of paint-bandaged eyes. Crotty’s gaps compose tableaux vivants that mischievously play with the body languages of representation, of history, of storytelling, of self and other. Black boy with yellow socks sits jockey-back upon presence as greyed absence; three bathers fully-dressed in detail loiter half-dressed in a pop-up pretext for landscape. We still get the full picture here, but the picture is not activated just by detail as it was before, it is activated by the absence of details. Crotty’s tumbledown stage sets and coloured shards of light act out representation rather than deliver it, wholesale. Heaven. The artist’s shapes perform while his troupe of actors try to find their footing and themselves without script or composition. Crotty turns the tables on his cast, a cast that has participated in the relational aesthetics of the artist’s youth, nostalgia, and allusions to the tradition of painting. However, the cobalts and cadmiums still intimate it is all a dream, an ideal, an elevated past: Poussin was the receptacle for too many words.


Through 16 November 2019.

so far…