Wiszniewski: New Paintings & Peter Thomson: New Paintings
Until June 20; Open Eye, Edinburgh
paintings were animals, Adrian Wiszniewskis latest offering
at the Open Eye gallery would be big, bounding shaggy dogs. Though
the majority of them are lumbering mutts, there does lurk the odd
pedigree surprise. Across the hall, the work of fellow-Glasgow painter,
Peter Thomson, is more like a menagerie of exotic insects, each specimen
stock-still, spell-binding, and creepy.
Though both men attended Glasgow School of Art in the early 1980s,
Wiszniewski is by far the better known of the two, having ridden the
boom and bust wave of enthusiasm for big, brash figurative paintings.
Now the work of neither man is exactly fashionable, but if prices
are anything to go by, theres still a bit of surf left for Wiszniewski.
There are essentially three types of painting in Wiszniewskis
show: ambitious figure scenes on a grand scale; simpler, bolder portraits
of medium size; and a series of small sketched faces with standard
The large compositions just dont pull it off. The skimpy brushwork
and incoherent arrangements suggest an artist in a rush, hoping to
hit on something if he just keeps going. The chalky, dirty paint is
deadened by its handling, in contrast with some of Wiszniewskis
best work, which is rich and thickly luminous. But there are hints
of something better glimpsed in the view through a window,
or a door, or in the pinned up pictures within a picture of Cornwall
These are simple, bold flights of fancy: billowing clouds and plasticine
trees, cartoon environments much more compelling than the numb characters
in the pictures main space. They show Wiszniewski at his best:
exuberant and yet controlled within a tight, self-contained structure.
Too liable to get tangled up in the tuberous complexity of his large
canvasses, Wiszniewski makes his best work at more modest dimensions.
Artists Signature and The Man Who Made Money stand out from the rest:
each features just one character, anchored against a strong, vivid
background. The brushwork is hatched and stippled, sculpting the forms
instead of skating impatiently over the picture surface.
In the latter painting, the sinuous curves of the mans lapels
continue unbroken through his interlocked fingers, echoed on the left
by the large dollar sign. Colour and harmony are locked into place,
perhaps not in the most earth-shattering visual statement, but in
one which compels you to look.
Next door, Peter Thomsons paintings dont shout half as
loud; in fact they lurk like hidden scorpions waiting for their prey.
17th Century Dutch painter Gerard Dou was known to sit motionless
in his studio for hours, waiting for the dust to settle before he
took up his tiny brushes; Thomsons gleaming panels recall the
minute detail and polished surfaces of Dou and his band of fijnschilders
Thomsons shining gems are peopled with the sick, emaciated characters
of Eastern European theatre, frozen in time as if for a split second
and an eternity. They inhabit grey galleries, luxurious interiors,
bleak forests and plush cinemas, all settings oozing with atmosphere.
The characters, with their pink-rimmed eyes, look like the living
dead, and sometimes just like the dead.
The flat precision of Thomsons environments particularly
his dark, neatly arranged winter woods owes much to 15th century
Florentine painter Paolo Uccello. But while the medieval painters
famous Hunt In The Forest featured vigorous hunters in a blossoming
forest, Thomsons trees, like his humans, might equally be dead
Whether a whisper in the background, or a growl in the foreground,
there is one force latent in all these paintings: a sense of the watcher
being watched. In Projections, it takes time to realise that we have
become the projected image in a gallery viewed by a lone spectator.
In Spectators, a sweeping cinema auditorium is filled with serried
ranks of death-white faces, staring numbly at the screen before them.
The whiteness of their faces is a reflection of that screen, on which
hundreds of motionless faces stare back.
Thomsons paintings slowly uncurl before you, revealing hidden
mysteries, but holding back on more. They suck you into their silent
worlds, while Wiszniewskis declare themselves like a trumpet
fanfare, with a few flat notes along the way.
Black, Sunday Herald 10.06.07