Lee Maelzer - Dust


28 Feb 2014 to 19 Apr 2014
Opening times:

Thursday to Saturday, 12.30-5.30pm

Private View: Friday 28 MARCH, 6-9.30pm

The London-based artist is well known for putting used things and redundant sites to poetic purpose on canvas. Maelzer remains interested in the significance of matter and site to the common experiences and signature rituals that connect us.

The large skies and eerie horizons of earlier works encouraged one to linger in a cinematic twilight, contemplating the curious stylistics of the frozen image that can imbue the everyday with melancholy or wring a creepiness from the most mundane of details. With the latest body of paintings, Maelzer tinkers evermore cannily with the thresholds between painted and printed surface; image and scape. The eye requires adjustment time to make sense of pathologically observed auto-focused details, or slight, seductively described states of dematerialisation.

As the title of this exhibition, DUST, implies, she has become increasingly drawn to the glitches, the image anomalies sometimes inherent within the print, though more recently of her own making, that lift generic photos (familiar scenes or evidence of life's repetitive markers) out of the mass archival soup.

She uses the compositional constructs at her disposal – as much from the history of painting as film-making and photography – in ways that speak of the power and the failings of words to describe emotional responses to things and places. The perfunctory scene often forms the structural basis for her investigation into the shape and significance of memories. Though her works often appear faithful to the observation of real places her allegiance is not with the pursuit of visual truth, but to the altered states of time capture – those trapped in photographs or in the mind itself.

Maelzer's current mode of image de/reconstruction (whether of those found or framed by the lens of her own camera), might be described as creative sabotage for she exposes photographic surfaces to acidic chemicals -- as if to stress-test the pictorial composition, perhaps, or excavate the material and associative layers contained. This curiously destructive yet ultimately useful approach -- and the beautiful banality of the results -- help one to situate Maelzer's concerns amongst those that dog other painters of the mediated image. Where Gerhard Richter has sought to highlight the glossy, corruptible skin of images to frame the Wizard of Oz mechanisms of the media, for example, Maelzer implicates herself within the ruse – of where one form of representation ends and another begins – communicating the difficulties of processing data in a decontextualised image culture. Her effervescent treatment of the source proves to be both the undoing and the salvation of the content: a seltzer dissolution of the ordinary that serves to subtly loosen photography's technological hold over how it was and the wider brass-eye significance of the medium to recent history. Each image appears styled as if by the selective processes of archiving experience to memory. Maelzer slips in and out of painterly techniques and compositional devices as if in search of what painting from life means in an era lived, to an increasing extent, on screen.

Wilhelm Sasnal is, perhaps, a more closely related contemporary, not in terms of his visual vernacular but the desire to get amongst the time-based atoms of images and interpret the experience through paint. Amongst the many poetic revelations of Maelzer's notes (a veritable love letter to research) sparkle two footnotes of particular relevance to this reductionist position. The first describes her childhood fascination for magazine pages: their high-colour irreality prompting exploration of the image surface, a desire to rub away the synthetic top layer beneath which Maelzer felt sure lurked evidence of a life she could relate to.

Where the aesthetic strategies of Richter and Sasnal often engage the viewer's emotional response in the manner of a controlled experiment, affording one the necessary analytical distance from the image and its primary context, Maelzer makes one believe that each site rendered, no matter how ruined, is of explicit personal importance to someone, if not herself. This is to some extent set in motion by the tenderness of her paint application: rendered as if the last recorded mental snapshot of a life cut short by a road accident. However green Maelzer's paintings might become they are essentially cut from the grubby fabric of everyday London life: hidden details, sites between purpose or buildings overgrown, temporarily lost from view or razed to the ground and reorganised into piles of matter. Verdigris could not be described this way, detritus captured so hauntingly without an intimate personal knowledge of the city.

But one should not underestimate the impact of Maelzer's ability to blur the boundaries between the practical necessities of craft, in terms of constructing an image of 'real' life, and the technological or acid-induced quirks of the original. Maelzer is acutely aware of the particular effect that representations of the real, reconfigured by hand, have on the viewer. And, the communicative possibilities of the medium as a material link between the past and the present. How a smudgy swatch of an indescribable grey, or a flurry of marks might open an associative portal connecting, say, the light of Lynch's America on film with the full-fat austerity of Morandi's object studies; the cellular spread of Corot's foliage with the voyeuristic eye of contemporary urban TV drama.

Text by Rebecca Geldard.

Curated by Iavor Lubomirov and Bella Easton.

Event Address: 
Enclave 8, 50 Resolution Way
Deptford, London