Group exhibitions are delicate things. The work of each artist requires special attention, but must be in dialogue with those around him. The best have a solid theme to tie all unruly ideas together with something bordering on a thesis, like Among the Trees, an exhibition on … well, trees, which opened at the Hayward Gallery in March 2020, just before the world does not change.
A less good example is Mixing It Up: Painting Today, which opens tomorrow at the Hayward Gallery and brings together a horde of works by no less than 31 artists, each differing so much in tone, theme and execution that they attempt. to digest them all. becomes a war of attrition.
Even the blurb on the wall is vague, suggesting that the artists “all share an interest in harnessing the potential of painting as a medium in which things can be mixed,” which is a roundabout way of saying nothing. at all.
It’s frustrating, because there are glossy paintings here. I loved the nightmarish shadows of Mohammed Sami creeping over domestic stages; and Denzil Forrester’s cheerful, abstract portrayals of east London reggae clubs; and Gareth Cadwallader’s small introspective painting of a man smoking in a forest. Each is worthy of consideration, but your attention is always drawn in a new direction: Jonathan Wateridge’s heavily staged photo-realistic paintings of seemingly candid moments; Vivien Zhang’s stenciled “algorithms”, which echo the visual clutter of the Internet age; Daniel Sinsel’s coarse eggplant, painted at a quirky angle that makes you feel like you’ve had a few beers.
It all seems confusing (something sadly echoed in the hard-to-follow one-way system that winds through the gallery), with not enough offerings to make sense of the exhibition as a whole but too much on display to truly enjoy the tables individually.