Damien Meade is a painter of oddly atmospheric inanimate heads, these are not quite portraits but records of strangely compelling emerging personalities that give off the feeling of something emerging out of the clay. Not fully formed but nascent and fully resolved in oils on board. There are nods to Surrealism or should I say psychoanalysis via the oddly psychological feel and to the palette of the old masters giving the work layers of meaning.
“Damien Meade, born in Ireland, is known for his paintings which are the culmination of a layered studio-based process that begins with the artist modelling a structure from clay in his studio, shaping it and giving it form with his hands. Once finished, the clay object is photographed repeatedly, creating hundreds of images. Meade then creates a digital translation by subtly manipulating the chosen image to enhance the evocation of tactility of its surface. Gentle highlights of pink and purple give a bruised impression and suggest the sensitivity of flesh. The final image is then painted with oil paint on linen,” Whitechapel Gallery listing
There is something muted and melancholic about the images, the colour brings to mind Michael Borremans and emphasizes the ambiguity of the paintings.
Meade’s works are the result of process which sees them born from the clay, digitally translated and then firmly fixed in art history through the amber of oil painting. It’s a sequence of events that in its-self acts as a metaphor for the violence of being seen.
“Damien Meade’s paintings begin as mud, but live on as creatures of dirt. Minerals suspended in water are made compact—first by time, then the artist’s hand—and transform into something that Meade cannot, or at least does not want to name. Paint shifts onto linen panels like dried-up play doh curling at its edges, creating what looks like hair, pairs of lips or the surface of skin, perhaps. In an unusual twist of tradition, this clay will never see the inside of a furnace. Instead, it stays wet and, once he is through, will be crushed and churned into the shape of Meade’s next model,” Olivia Fletcher
Meade also makes anthropomorphic shapes and tactile surfaces.
Duelality, past and present
The sense of time passing is also present in the works which sometimes have a look of something degrading or from the distant past this feeling of distant past and digital future is reflected or hinted at in the image Janus.
Janus is a mythic figure present in the Roman tradition, often depicted with two faces as he looks to the future and the past. Janus was the god of duality, of doorways, beginnings and endings these are the obsessions which drive this practice and make the exhibition at the Peter von Kant Gallery a must see.
Subtley surreal the forms are first abstract shapes and surface textures, slowly forms emerge and associations begin to form in the veiwers mind. Sometimes the titles give a promt as above sometimes your left hanging.
This is serious, thoughtful and hands-on work proving that painting is the medium for deep thought and reflection.
Header Image: ‘Frontier Psychiatry’, 2011
Michael Eden is the Arts Editor for Trebuchet Magazine, an artist and researcher working in London and the south east, his artistic practice is concentrated on painting and he divides his time between this and lecturing in art history and contextual studies.