Painting’s Not Dead: Charline von Heyl

There’s a new exhibition opening at Tate Liverpool this week, and shhh, it features a living painter…

It’s fitting perhaps that in the lead-up to this year’s John Moores Painting Prize, Tate Liverpool has chosen to show the first major UK exhibition of the New York based artist Charline von Heyl. Fitting because she is in the vanguard of a new tradition of abstract painters at a time when painting, at last, seems to be emerging from out of the shadows.

The artist touched on this recently in an interview with, in which von Heyl said of the discipline: “I always had this idea that paintings are zombies, because everybody says, ‘Painting is dead,’ and then they’re walking around happily — dead. But now I actually think paintings are vampires, because they feed on the gaze and suck your eyes. I really have the feeling that the more a painting gets looked at, the stronger it gets.”

What of the work in this exhibition? Tate have at their disposal some 40 large canvasses, covering over 20 years of her output, and hopefully going to show the eclecticism on show in her practice. This eclecticism is borne out of a stubborn unwillingness to commit to a specific style or vision, moving some to suggest she has constantly reinvented the art form. That said, her work does put to use various running themes; recycling and redeploying of imagery feature strongly, as well as techniques most frequently associated with the digital world, such as masking and layering.

The exhibition marks a fairly significant departure for Tate Liverpool, in that recent exhibitions at the gallery have tended to feature work, arguably catering to footfall and the mass consciousness. We’re thinking the recent Alice exhibition, and before that Klimt and Picasso. And in many ways, this is the role of Tate Liverpool; to succeed in delivering the bigger names to a (mostly) grateful city, and succeed they have.

In Charline von Heyl though, they have a different beast altogether: a living, practicing artist whose work still has the potential and room to develop and evolve. In this respect at least, it’s a pretty brave and refreshing tangent taken by Tate; one which we’re certain will draw criticism from probably the same section of people who would have complained had they plumped to once again exhibit an artist no longer with us. But with us von Heyl very much is, and for that we’re thankful. Roll on Friday!

Charline von Heyl at Tate Liverpool is open to the public from Friday 24th Feb until 27th May

Tickets £7.20/£5.40

Image © Charline von Heyl, courtesy of Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne & Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York

Posted on 21/02/2012 by thedoublenegative