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Review: Riccardo D’Angelo – Oil Squashed

Oil Squashed

When Supercollider presented the exhibition Painting Show in 2011, the exhibition featured no paintings at all but rather 4 videos works which sought to communicate painting as a language rather than a medium. Supercollider, in 7 years of programming, has done only 2 previous painting shows back in 2008 and 2009.

Informed by the gallery’s historical programme, audience’s do not readily associate Supercollider with painting; so, when the promotional material for the current exhibition circulated and applied the term ‘…painting show’, it was taken with a fistful of salt.

Oil Squashed sees Supercollider’s space at 59 Cookson Street stripped down to its bare essentials. There are no wall texts and no hand outs on offer (titles of the works can be obtained on request). A crisp, brightly lit, white space hosts seven paintings, of various scales, by Blackpool based painter Riccardo D’Angelo.

D’Angelo’s works reference ‘big’ themes – monstrous themes, one might say; religion, classical mythology, history painting and portraiture. His practice seek to push forward the historical traditions of painting whilst simultaneously undermining them and exposing the fault lines in the medium.

The paintings, all dated 2013/14, are oil on canvas and predominantly point towards notions of mythology. They oscillate between the comedic and the tragic, the grotesque and the beautiful. the critical and the sincere. Despite their titles, D’Angelo’s paintings are not didactic exercises of history painting but, instead, are fleshy, oily, clumsy and confused vistas in which history and medium are flattened or squashed. They are informed by an art-historical trajectory spanning the Renaissance and Baroque and encompassing Cubism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism and Pop . Minotaur and the Girls carries with it all the ‘lumpiness’ of De Kooning and a fractured plain which recalls Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907) or Guernica (1937). Mother and Child and Goat reduces the classical image of the Madonna and Child to a grotesque confluence of brush strokes, anchored by a grinning jelly-baby Jesus.

By design, D’Angelo paints ‘ugly’ paintings. D’Angelo’s paintings are ugly in the sense that myths, history, religion and memory are chaotic spaces, filled with the warfare of ugly acts committed by terrible people. The lines and forms in D’Angelo’s painting are loose, fluid and imbued with subjectivity, much like the mythological tales which inform them. Myths are, of course, not concrete, they are, much like abstract painting, stories born from a need to translate and/or transcribe that which cannot be communicated.Myths are also the victims of history, powered by individual and collective (mis)readings – a grand narrative made up of collected whispers.

There are lots of characters present in D’Angelo paintings – saints, sinners, martyrs, gods, mortals and beasts. One less obvious but not less key character present in the room is the artist himself. The ‘artist’, like the Saint or the Minotaur in classical mythology, is a myth, an embellishment of a reality, distended and represented.

Oil Squashed runs until the 29th November at Supercollider, Cookson Street. For more information visit www.supercolliderhq.org.uk

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