Mix things up: paint today

Matthieu Krishanu, Two boys (church tower, 2020, oil on canvas, 45 x 35 cm © Matthew Krishanu (2021). Photo: Peter Mallet

Mix things up: paint today is the Hayward Gallery’s great fall exhibition bringing together 31 contemporary painters whose work draws freely from various image sources, techniques and traditions to shape fresh and fascinating works of art that speak of this moment .

Featuring three generations of artists who live and work in the UK, Mix things up: paint today highlights the country’s emergence as a vital international center for contemporary painting. Reflecting the international character of the British painting scene, the participating artists come from very diverse backgrounds and nationalities: more than a third of the participating artists were born in other countries, notably countries in Africa, Asia, from South America and North America. Mix things up: paint today is also the first study of contemporary painting in the history of the Hayward Gallery where the majority of artists are women.

Rachel Jones, Lick Your Teeth, They Cling, 2021, oil pastel and oil stick on canvas 250 x 160 cm © Rachel Jones (2021). Courtesy of Thaddaeus Ropac. Photo: Eva Herzog

“While painting is generally classified as the most conservative and traditional form of art, the artists at Mixing It Up offer proof of a contrary point of view: in fact, painting – thanks to some of its unique characteristics – may in fact be the medium that fits the most conceptually bolder thought.


Ralph Rugoff, Director of the Hayward Gallery

While this multigenerational group of artists does not constitute a new movement or stylistic trend, they share a significant interest in harnessing the exceptional multiplicity of their medium and harnessing its potential as a format in which things can be mixed as nowhere else. They frequently create works that fall between existing categories and genres, and that create unexpected associations between past and present. Rather than aiming to create iconic images, they treat the canvas as an assemblage site where references converge from a variety of sources, including advertising, vernacular and documentary photography, viral memes, fashion, medical textbooks and cinema, as well as the history of art. Using the medium as a platform for speculative reflection and unexpected conversations, their paintings oscillate between observation and invention, representation and allegory, illusion and materiality. Exploring the cracks in our conventional ways of looking and thinking, including our conceptions of gender, race and identity, their paintings allude to different ways of thinking about the relationship between individual and collective identities, as well as between oneself and the other.

Louise Giovanelli, Cameo, 2021, oil on linen, 36 x 25.5 cm © Louise Giovanelli (2021). Courtesy of the artist and Workplace, London and Gateshead. Photo: Michael Pollard.

Above all, the paintings in this exhibition are soundly ambiguous. These works invite viewers to use their own imaginations to find different ways of interpreting them, while often questioning how their social reception might change for different audiences. Whether they are reflecting on aspects of the current experience or framing old stories from new perspectives, they are relying on painting’s ability to relate seemingly unrelated things (and ideas and feelings associated with them) so as to encourage us to find meaning in them.

To mix together is curated by Hayward Gallery Director Ralph Rugoff, with Assistant Curator Phoebe Cripps and Curatorial Assistant Thomas Sutton.

Allison Katz, Adult Services, 2019, oil, acrylic and iridescent pigments on linen, 200 x 160 cm © Allison Katz (2021). Courtesy of the artist and The Approach, London

Mix things up: paint today with 31 artists: Tasha Amini, Hurvin Anderson, Alvaro Barrington, Lydia Blakeley, Gabriella Boyd, Lisa Brice, Gareth Cadwallader, Caroline Coon, Somaya Critchlow, Peter Doig, Jadé Fadojutimi, Denzil Forrester, Louise Giovanelli, Andrew Pierre Hart, Lubaina Himid, Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, Merlin James, Rachel Jones, Allison Katz, Matthew Krishanu, Graham Little, Oscar Murillo, Mohammed Sami, Samara Scott, Daniel Sinsel, Caragh Thuring, Sophie von Hellermann, Jonathan Wateridge, Rose Wylie, Issy Wood and Vivien Zhang .

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalog with original texts by Jeremy Atherton Lin, Martha Barratt, Ben Eastham, Emily LaBarge, Rosanna Mclaughlin, Rianna Jade Parker and Ralph Rugoff.

Hurvin Anderson, Ascen, 2019, acrylic on paper mounted on cardboard, 100 x 130 cm
© Hurvin Anderson (2021). Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery. Laura and Barry Townsley, London. Photo: Rat Hole Gallery

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Marc Westall

Mark Westall is the founder and editor-in-chief of FAD magazine Founder and co-editor of Art of Conversation and founder of the @worldoffad platform

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