10 August – 7 September, 2021
Viewing Room / Installation Views
Heteronymous Painters is opening online for the first time with Mirror, the first solo show of the London-based artist Alan Rotz. Moved by parallel philosophies, Heteronymous Painters and the artist both show an investment in exploring complex codes of heteronomy, pointing towards a capacity for adaptive modification, where the play on alter egos and identities is key.
An overarching feeling of uncertain suspension sets the exhibition’s tone of voice, inviting us to wander around with caution and slowly pace our steps. An arresting, dense yellow hue engulfs the eight large-format paintings on display, with a twist. Reversed and hidden away, the archetypal status of the canvases becomes the work. Subverting the act of display while playing a lustful game of expectations, Mirror creates a palpable curiosity, by giving as much as it takes from us, by making us crave for what lies beyond the wooden frame – and only allowing it to be accessed through a provocative flickering of the accompanying artist’s book’s pages.
Through dry-brushing, a scumbling-like technique, the paintings’ tensions and collisions surface as remainders of layered skin-on-skin contact. Paired with the bareness of the crossed wooden structures, the expressive blurred areas, the juxtapositions of gestural lines and strokes, echo the inherent eroticism of Rotz’s practice. Driven by an investigation of female sexuality, both through the explicit nature of photos which only a blazing flash could bring, or via the fleshy tones that weave the eight canvases together, Mirror is intrinsically embedded with a powerful and gut-like imaginary of motherhood. Not coincidentally, Mother (2021) opens up the special edition artist’s book, pointing towards the reproductive ability of the artwork as well as of the body. Rotz’s multi-faceted investigation of provenance and origin is consistent across the rest of the works, sometimes inside the canvas or, more often than not, transcending it. In London (2021), Rotz takes direct cues from Philip Guston’s chameleonic approach to painting; whereas Meghan (2021) can solely be imagined through its eponymous photographic counterpart, sitting on the edge of the canvas.
Alongside the paintings, the previously unpublished tongue-in-cheek portraits call for an intimate glimpse into the inner systems of image-making: digitally or mechanically, becoming a copy is first and foremost, an exercise of imagination. Mirror’s overwhelmingly amniotic environment foresees the inexorable diffusion and speculative resetting of meaning through its reproductive potential.
With a history as a film photographer, Rotz’s inclination to defy axiomatic systems of representation is clear. Perhaps ironically, Water Lilies (2021), the fifth work on the book, hints to the artist’s sharp view on the shallowness of portrayal as an isolated record of nature and life. Instead, Rotz embraces a fully Post-Impressionist approach to mark-making, where subjectivity and an underlying stance on the world take precedence. Dressed with fiercely rhythmic grey and fuchsia meshes, the artist makes Gauguin’s signature the focal point in Ramblings of a Wannabe Painter (2021). The artist’s overt disruption of authorship allows for mechanisms of property and power to become visible without confirming them, signalling an increasing persistence of censorship within the art world. His articulation and need for alterity dwells on the ever-expanding idiosyncrasies of the image in digital space – more specifically, that of a woman.
Reinforced by curatorial choices, the simmering off-limits status of the paintings, paired with the exposure of their backbones, becomes a form of resistance. Rotz takes active responsibility for their value as impressions as well as for their reproductive potential, smoothly mediating an open-ended conversation on the dynamics of the self as image, both on and off the screen. Mirror works undoubtedly as an image of itself – a double, a third, a probably infinite reflection of imaginaries and myths which lie beyond the one-dimensional act of seeing.
Inês Mena Silva