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Mixing It Up: Painting Today, Hayward Gallery

This was a richly varied collection of 31 contemporary painters who live and work in the UK. I am consistently drawn back to painting as possibly more than any other medium as it allows an artist to create imagined realities as no other medium can. As the introduction states, motifs can be mixed together, time periods can be combined and reality can be combined with fiction. It is this potential to create unimagined new perspectives which attracts and more than anything it is then the gaps between the competing elements that I enjoy playing exploring in my mind.

The work varied between photorealism, pure abstraction, surrealism and explorations in geometry. Photorealistic painting is astoundingly skilful and there were a number of examples but I find myself feeling a little cheated once I have appreciated the skill of the artist. I guess I’m looking for a little more to investigate in a work than the pure finesse of creating something that could have been captured in a photograph. Impressive work nonetheless.

Mohammed Sami is an Iraqi painter whose work was lovely but his themes cover conflict and violence. A minimal palette showed us a glimpse of a refugee camp through a glade of trees, with the evening light capturing the buildings. There is a sense of peace but then we see a fence in the foreground, presumably containing the sorry individuals. A meaningful counterplay between trauma and safety.

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami is a Zimbabwean artist who now lives and works in the UK and her work concerns diaspora, displacement and identity. I really enjoyed her intensely pigmented canvases rich in bold colour and the incorporation of what appeared to be pastel and chalk to add layers of mark-making styles.

Overall this was an enchanting and skillfully curated exhibition that filled me with new excitement about the potential of contemporary painting.

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