AboutThe Agency is pleased to present a series of older and recent paintings by Denis Stuart. Dutch born, where a/o he worked with Nan Hoover on performance and sound works 1982-85 he began painting in the early Nineties. An exceptional painter, Denis Stuart has worked on a number of serial works. We are pleased to present an overview of his works of the last decade. His paintings appear initially to be the representation of every sky in European painting of the 19th Century. On closer inspection however the works reference historical paintings as if painted from memory, therefore leaving out the finer details of narrative scenes and simply focusing on the essential colouration of each background, and the tempestuous and calm elements which were once the backdrop to illustrate battle or pastoral scenes. Stuart's works reference European master paintings of the 18th and 19th century, yet, they abandon all quotation and contrivance and work with the essence of the mood created by the backdrop alone. If we have never contemplated works of Gainsborough or Watteau in that way, Stuart's paintings remind us of the magnificence of the mood setting device which is natural force represented in historical painting. Using pigmentation in a historically acceptable way he arrives at astounding renditions of possible backdrops to great paintings never made.
Whilst firmly rooted in the tradition of figuration, the works by Stuart are not figurative, neither are they abstract, in fact they are vivid. They function despite the absence of a figurative narrative and, yet, they remind of a presence that might have been. His works force the viewer to utilise their own memory to put them to rights by imagining narratives or alternatively accepting their deconstructive presence without resolution. His works become abstracted whilst using the stylistic means of figurative painting. Stuart's pigmentation is credibly authentic in appearance, albeit in acrylics, and reminiscent of an array of historical paintings and, yet, by reducing it to the representation of moods rather than stories told, it becomes the prime focus of the work, which breaks with iconographic history. Stuart's paintings convince by breaking the rules of landscape painting in such a manner that they become re-acceptable. Jacques Derrida, whilst rarely referencing great art of historical importance, pointed out that after a period of deconstruction a period of re-construction would follow. Though creating a highly relevant counter ' theory he nevertheless partially conceded to Habermas' belief in destroying and re-constituting patterns in the manner of the Enlightenment. Stuart's paintings are part of that re-constitution, but they do not pander to conservatism, but rather more to a new language, which embraces a broken narrative, which is nevertheless appeasing both to the eye and to the mind.
Denis Stuart's paintings are deeply enjoyable whilst questioning the relevance of our memory and our desire for appeasement in ways that make us reset our assumptions of what is contemporary and what may not be. Suspended between modernism and historicism they provide no answers, which is the way it should be in the age of doubtful re-construction.