It’s hard to imagine a less violent battleground than the artist’s canvas, but for more than 20 years American painter Amy Sillman has been a soldier with a paint brush, waging war with herself and her medium. Hers is a conflict between the abstract and the figurative. It’s also a fight about the relevance of painting in an age of multimedia installations and net art.
The works in this show fit neatly into an aesthetic Sillman has made her own. In several paintings hints of figurative somethings poke out of fields of abstract nothings – a pair of gloves in ‘Duel’, a palette knife in ‘Untitled (Purple Bottle)’. But the best works dive headlong into abstraction. With blocky chunks of soft blue and lilac contrasting with dark green and black, these are rough, bold paintings. They unfold before your eyes, becoming landscapes, seascapes and portraits – all the while being none of these at all.
Down the street, Thomas Dane’s second gallery space shows 288 stills from Sillman’s recent iPad animation, ‘13 Possible Futures: Cartoon for a Painting’. Again, the boundaries between abstract and figurative are playfully blurred. It’s enormous fun, with clever nods to Francisco de Goya and comic book art, but it lacks the imposing presence and impressive beauty of Sillman’s works on canvas – pieces that single her out as a unique force in the world of contemporary painting.