John Chilver, ‘Superstratum’, Koraalberg Gallery, Antwerp, Belgium, exhibition catalogue, (excerpt), 2009

(Cedric Christie, Arturo Herrera, Joyce Kim, Imi Knoebel, Perry Roberts, Danny Rolph, Adrian Schiess, DJ Simpson, Michael Stubbs, Clare Woods)

Stubbs has talked in terms of the visuality of the computer screen with its illusionistic stacking and overlaying of windows that requires no materiality, save that of light. It is significant that here the possibility of a Newman-type identification of the canvas surface as pictorial stratum – an Urgrund beyond and behind which nothing is conceivable – is decisively cancelled: both because of the primordially illusionistic nature of the digital-pictorial as such, and because overlaying of windows-type layers is in principle unlimited, presenting layering as infinite accumulation and un-layering as infinite regress. It is in this sense that John Rajchman’s proposal of a ‘groundless ground’ has some plausibility.4 For on the screen, as we shift between programmes and folders or browse the net, we find no equivalent to the Ur-ground. If we adopt the screen then as the emblem of the contemporary optic, we presumably regard contemporary painting as somehow marking a return to a quasi-classical conception of its task as one of illusionistic affect… The intelligence lies in suggesting that materiality can persist as a key affective dimension of painting only if its terms are re-written… Recent paintings, like Michael Stubbs’s work towards a diminished materiality, resulting in something more akin to the continuous surface associated with the varnished skin of an Old Master painting than to the opaque porosity of a Hofmann or Still. With Stubbs, this surface serves (as) a spatial encounter that is neither that of the Modernist stratum nor the classical substratum… Painted marks are seen now as behind or in front of the picture plane, never just on it or at it. Sub or super, never just stratum… They are simultaneously substratum and superstratum.

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