Nino Mier Gallery, New York
September 6 – October 21
I have been waiting for a show like Jonathan Wateridge’s Afterparty for a long time. It is a show with solid painting skills, truth in the characters and the merging of abstract figuration and modern locations. A show where we are witness to the societal decline of unjust affluent aspiration. Wateridge leans toward the cinematic and a dramatic story line told through the striking pagination of these eight mysterious paintings: paintings that are part of an elusive pop culture as indulgent as hip 70’s movie stills, as in Red Curtain (all works 2023). A remote figure drifts across a set-like room past a striking striped curtain. Charged with uncertainty these high-modern paintings are both timely and timeless in their intent and execution. Wateridge’s determined line and sense of space displays a strong academic understanding of drawing in the classical sense with an expansion into modern distortion. Though abstracted, these contoured figures possess a commanding display of anatomy. Especially in Downpour, Wateridge blurs the figure’s hands and discards its feet, but still there is dynamic physical movement.
Wateridge’s interiors and exteriors are site specific, like a photographic location shot, and sublimely rendered and convincing. They give you just enough information about the psychological situation these figures are in and what you the viewer are encountering. The vignettes hold the figures tightly in place without devouring them, barely enough air for them to breathe, creating in some figures a curious mask-like portrait. The figures seem resigned to a state of logical detachment, and as the viewer, you feel as if you have just arrived on the scene, happened on to something unexpectedly.
Red Curtain, 2023; Oil on linen; 70 7/8 x 53 1/8 in
Downpour, 2023; Oil on linen; 78 3/4 x 59 in
Wateridge displays an assured Matisse-like freedom of pushing paint; he is very comfortable with the medium and possesses a confidence that makes the weight of paint move freely to travel and entice, as in the vigor used to build up the foliage in Host. His colors are often playful and unexpected with a film noir flair for shadow.
Most of the paintings present a strong, modern, confrontational presence with one surprising exception, Bedspread. In this painting there is an exhausted fluid blue-bordered figure face down, his back to you. His limbs are contorted but in a dance-like movement: a minimal Frances Bacon - with hints of a crime scene - but what really happened here, is he merely sleeping? Drugged?
In other paintings the figures engage you by allowing you to follow them in a voyeuristic manner. Some beckon you to turn corners or wonder where a winding slate path leads. Another contemplative figure has you follow her gaze telepathically, as seen in Open House. All of them raise a question. I don’t have an answer. Jonathan Wateridge’s eight extraordinary and elusive paintings invite us to the Afterparty, to enter these spaces, collapse time, and have an exchange with these spirited silent inhabitants in mysterious circumstances. I wanted to know them all, before they disappear completely.
- Carin Riley, October 10, 2023
Images courtesy of Nino Mier Gallery, Photography by Adam Reich.
Installation; Jonathan Wateridge: Afterparty. 2023; Nino Mier Gallery SoHo Header Image: Bedspread, 2023; Oil on canvas; 20 3/4 x 30 1/2 in