Gerard Hemsworth and Suhail Malik, ‘Painting Per Se’, Andre Millan Gallery, Sao Paulo, Brazil; Oscar Cruz Gallery, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, exhibition catalogue, 2003

(Machiko Edmonson, Jane Harris, Brad Lochore, Claudia Marchetti, Michael Stubbs)

Using the now ‘esteemed’ abstract painting technique of pouring, Michael Stubbs’ paintings consist of seemingly random pours of sleek transparent varnishes and opaque household paints, appearing to be fluid yet controlled gestures. However, the poured flows, which are often repeated, are interrupted by meticulously stenciled, hard-edged graphic signs, logos, fragments of words and second-hand decorative motifs. The poured flows reveal a build up of flat layers that are both literal and implied by utilizing depth and opticality. By pulling against one another, these layers create a tension between seductive surface effect (like the flattened world of the digital screen) and the histories and methods of Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art.

By juxtaposing the pours, the layering, and the motifs, Stubbs develops a discursive referential function within the paintings. Although his imagery seems to allude to some form of cultural commentary, the relation between abstraction as an irrational process on the one hand and the manifestation of the overlapping poured shapes on the other asserts a calculated agreement to disagree with the language of painting and its representation. By re-staging painterly craft as a playful irreverence between intractable materials and willful deliberation, the processes of abstraction, decoration and humour unfold into a heady mix of the serious and the sensual.