Scott McCracken’s practice is concerned with the uniqueness of paintings, and the conditions within which, as Clement Greenberg put it, “a picture must comply in order to be experienced as a picture.” Greenberg saw modernism to have abandoned painting’s project of representation, emphasising the picture as a picture first and foremost. Many artists were thus drawn to abstraction as a tool to isolate their work from other mediums. On his Instagram page, amongst his own pictures, McCracken features the work of post-war artists such as Ernst Wilhelm Nay and Markus Lüpertz whose paintings visualise this shift.
McCracken works upon the assumption that all painting is simultaneously abstract and figurative. He confronts these binary terms via an emphasis on movement both within and between his works, and a painterliness within sharply graphic forms that exaggerates visual differences. This anti-dualistic attitude is also discernible in Greenberg’s seminal text on Modernist Painting. He sees the limits of painting to assume a greater clarity the further back they are pushed, allowing us to perceive of continuities rather than ruptures between past and present. By accumulating, recycling and reconfiguring the building blocks of modernism, Scott’s paintings depict and occupy contemporary space while looking back to the developments of 20th-century art.
The oeuvre of David Bomberg and the various directions taken by his students illustrates this mutation of ideas about form, space, colour and the nature of painting. We are therefore incredibly excited to showcase Scott’s work in our Borough Art Labs programme, which brings contemporary artists into conversation with the permanent collection.
Scott McCracken's paintings are an index of geometric shapes and forms invented through a process of accumulation, recycling and reconfiguration. A recurring form adopts a different identity from one painting to the next, affording each work its own singular logic and personality, both paintings organisation of pictorial space and application of paint. By using the same format and size of support, a seriality is created within the work. An individual painting is concurrently autonomous and dependent on the wider community of paintings it belongs to. Although rooted in the language of abstraction, an animated quality extends throughout the work.