‘Painting Amongst Other Things’ (PAOT) is a series of three exhibitions about painting. Actually no, scratch that statement. To communicate with precision I should note that ‘PAOT’ is a three-part exhibition which renegotiates the relationship between painting and other things. Reflecting on the last remaining display, at Canberra’s Drill Hall Gallery and curated by Tony Oates (until 7 October), I can surmise that the works of art presented here challenge the conventions of the traditional painted surface commonly known to us as painting. In the controlled linkages between objects, the audience is offered a straightforward dialogue: what is a ‘canvas’, what is a ‘support’ and, for that matter, does a painter even have to paint with paint? The answers formulated here by Oates confidently suggest that a painting can be sculptural and therefore a sculpture can be painterly.
Similarly seen at the additional ‘PAOT’ venues of ANCA Gallery (curated by Oscar Capezio) and ANU School of Art & Design Gallery (curated by Peter Alwast, Raquel Ormella and Su Yilmaz), there was a symbiotic relationship established between these two modes of material thought. This is undoubtedly because both painting and sculpture possess an innate capacity to investigate the challenges of form and realness. Noted in the exhibition catalogue, the works presented in ‘PAOT’ strive to ‘reappraise the boundaries of painting through their journey and intervention into the real world’ (see http://paot.com.au/pdf/paot_catalogue_web.pdf).
If there is a criticism to be placed on ‘PAOT’, it lies in this conceptual freedom. The real world is vast, and diversity of thought is prolific. So I wonder: why can’t the other things encompass photography and new media, and do these modes of creative production still preclude connotations of embodiment? These questions are not aimed to antagonise the curators’ selection but to question the inherent threshold of painting. ‘PAOT’ is a complex exercise that welcomes questions and seeks to reassess the history of traditional painting through expanded fields. These expanded fields are, however, material, and this avenue of exploration is not infinite.
So I propose a fitting subtitle for ‘PAOT’ that is: I’m a painter’s painter so let’s talk about painting (and there is no shame in that).
Anja Loughhead, Canberra