"Melancholy and utopia are heads and tails of the same coin."
- Gunter Grass, From the Diary of a Snail (1972)
1301PE is pleased to announce its fifth exhibition with acclaimed British painter Paul Winstanley. Winstanley has been making paintings that investigate the psychology of common space and its representation for the past three decades.
For this exhibition, Winstanley presents a new series of paintings along with a set of virtuosic watercolors. Six paintings picture the waiting room of a South London institution, built in the late 50s as part of the United Kingdom's post war boom and the democratization of access to public services. These interiors display a stripped down functionality that might be described as 'minimal' although they exhibit none of the sumptuous qualities associated with contemporary minimal architecture and design. This utilitarian aesthetic is the consequence of a cultural period that lasted in Britain from 1945-1979. Although the decor appears forlorn by today's standards, it was, nevertheless, part of an ideal of utopian hope growing out of the experience of war. This tension between melancholy and utopia also exists in Winstanley's paintings of nature. 'Evergreen in the Grounds,' which depicts an evergreen pressed against the institution's walls, speaks to the building's dystopic fate despite its optimistic founding.
The elusive line between utopia and dystopia that Winstanley portrays propels larger questions about the nature of existence and perception. As Christel Fricke states in the catalogue essay for Paul Winstanley: Threshold (2008):
"Winstanley does not pretend to have a final answer, but he keeps trying to take us beyond the mirror, beyond the veil, by painting the veil beautifully."
Through Winstanley's masterful handling of paint, form, and color, existential spaces are rendered both haunting and beautiful. Their superlative technique is surpassed only by the loaded questions they bring to the fore.
Paul Winstanley was born in 1954 in Manchester, England; he works and lives in London. He has exhibited at several international museums and galleries including Kerlin Gallery, Dublin, Red Mansion Foundation, Beijing, and Mitchell-Innes and Nash, New York. His work is represented in numerous public and private collections, including the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Tate Gallery, the European Parliament, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.