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‘Paint’ by Eric Belgrave, a review

BARBADE

PUNCH CREATIVE ARENA

ERIC BELGRAVE

PunchPaint Exhibition

Upon entering the exhibition space you may be deceived, for a few minutes, into believing that you are viewing a collection of paintings. But these conflagrations of colour, these explosions of pigment are not paintings, but photographs. Blown up, vibrant and intense close-ups of various artists’ pallets, easels and canvases. The effect is dazzling. Your eyes do the work of your fingers, tracing over the contours of paint globs and colour mixtures.

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There is the temptation to make the obvious connection between Belgrave’s photographs and Pollock’s paintings; both are raw, paint-focused and abstracted. Pollock’s need to have a paint splat ‘here’ or to place a drip ‘just so’ is mirrored in the way Belgrave chose to capture ‘this’ particular overlapping of paint or ‘that’ close-up of a palette. But Pollock took on the mammoth task of redefining the very notion of painting with his deconstruction of one its basic elements, the line. Belgrave’s pieces seem more spontaneous than preconceived. His intention mainly to capture rather than construct.

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Abstract art always evokes the age-old, unanswerable question of ‘what is art?’. The photographer muddles the question even further by making his subject matter that which is part of, becoming and instrumental in the creation of, various art pieces. When does replication become creation and is there more merit in one than the other? Does an exhibition have to have some profound meaning behind each piece? Can something be said for ‘Art for Art’s Sake’?

Only two photographs in the entire exhibition have been turned monochromatic, and one of these contains a single blue streak that was left in the (presumably) original colour. It appears in only these two instances Belgrave felt his creative input was necessary. An attempt to augment reality. The only effect is that the photographer appears to be confused. On the one hand he appears to want to replicate and on the other, he attempts to create. He places emphasis on his particular photographic choices by framing each one with raw wood, the kind a painter would stretch her canvas over, then omits any semblance of a title card that would identify each piece as its own. The photographer says “the truth is my gaze fell on an easel and saw images/pictures/paintings/photographs.” He saw art, but does anyone else?

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There’s little disputing that the photographs themselves are gorgeous. Colourful, well-balanced, textural and graphic, you can’t help but be drawn into them, your eye dancing into and out of every whorl, steak and splatter. Despite this, it’s impossible to be submerged in them. The lack of substance only leaves you light-headed and disoriented when you break the surface.

Perhaps it is enough for a photograph or a painting or sculpture to be beautiful and perhaps not. In very post-modernist fashion, the exhibition asks more questions than it answers, if it answers any at all.

Ari Green

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