Can painting itself be erotic? Tom Loveday poses this question in ‘Erotic Painting’, on show in East Sydney at the Conny Dietzschold Gallery (until 15 March). The question might seem unnecessary given the current carnival of Mardi Gras – not to mention the Art Gallery of New South Wales’s recent celebration of the nude in western art. Loveday’s investigation, however, occurs within the parameters of hard-edge abstraction.
Loveday is an artist who investigates correspondences between painting and philosophy. For him, the materiality of painting identifies a constitutive region of intensities. This understanding informs his working processes, which entail a kind of morphing of colour and form. Earlier subjects included the theme of bipolarity; now it is eroticism, or more specifically, the Freudian libido with its intertwined primal drives of Eros and Thanatos.
The choice of Freud brings paradox to an exhibition notable for its elegant dynamism. Arp-life biomorphism combined with a controlled colour palette will no doubt appeal to the collector’s eye, invoking the promise of bourgeois sublimation. On the other hand, Loveday is cognisant of Deleuze and Guattari’s anti-Oedipal subject. Eroticism signals a return to modernity’s conceptions of subjectivity, while displaying a critical energy suggestive of the post-humanist’s rejection of systematising ideology.
At any rate, ‘Erotic Painting’ wears the paradox lightly. The two acrylic-on-canvas sets document a generative sequence of symmetrical and asymmetrical forms that stem from an elementary pattern, the U-shape. When superimposed, the pattern multiplies. It is significant that despite transparent mutation, the history recorded here is not one of integration. It is, rather, a contact zone where forms meet and rub against one another. The artist’s instinctive minimalism serves him well in delineating this interplay, as does his use of flat colours. Within the parameters of formalist investigation, Loveday dissolves notions of inside and outside, instead charting an archipelago of sensations inseparable from its material properties.
James Paull, Sydney