Flowers is proud to announce an exhibition of paintings by the Scottish artist Ken Currie, Immortality. A catalog with an essay by Julie Lawson, Senior Curator at the National Portrait Gallery, Scotland, will be available.
Dark and dramatic both physically and thematically, Immortality can be viewed as a meditation upon the nature of portraiture itself. While Ken Currie draws upon traditional portrait conventions, these figure paintings do not depict the likenesses of actual people. They are a presentation of an invented world of aristocrats, patrons, military and religious officials, and other esteemed persons who would traditionally be deemed “worthy” of being immortalized in a commissioned portrait.
Currie presents a kind of portraiture in which there are no holds barred, where the painter is not circumscribed by his own desire to flatter or his need for diplomacy. He shows a portraitist free to paint what he has actually seen or construed, and often reverses the process of accentuating the positive. In Currie’s hands, art collectors are depicted not as glossy, proud patrons of the arts, but anxious and vain in front of their acquisitions. A war “hero” sits astride a winded and thirsty horse. A suited man in a typical corporate headquarters-style pose is depicted without trousers.
Immortality has a spirit of competition with the Spanish masters Currie so admires. Homage to Velázquez in particular can be seen in some of the works, including the large scale Chimera. In Chimera, the space is confusing and ambiguous – the viewer is unaware of his or her physical relationship with these figures: a cradle-to-grave collection of a family. As in Velázquez’s Las Meninas, the artist and the painting itself are found among this fictitious group. On the extreme right, one can see the left hand side of a canvas that is in fact the left hand side of the painting currently being viewed. Currie is shown scrutinizing his canvas, blade in hand, reminding the spectator that a painting is contingent – the painter can decide at any point to destroy what he has created. In another echo of Las Meninas, the artist seems to appear again as the backlit figure standing at an open doorway, looking past the cast of characters and out towards the viewer. Currie suggests the power of painting by creating something both rational and irrational, that exists and yet has no existence, that is real and yet a chimera.
Ken Currie was born in Great Britain in 1960, and currently resides in Glasgow. He graduated from The Glasgow School of Art in 1983 and has been in numerous solo and group exhibitions in museums across England and Europe. His work can be seen in the collections of The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art; The National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh; The New York Public Library; the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven; and the Boston Museum of Fine Art.