Hugh Mendes returns for his third solo exhibition, mid September, at Charlie Smith London with a Menagerie of historical paintings of dead artists.
Mendes is recognised for his finely rendered obituary paintings that operate simultaneously as portrait and still life. This obsessive project, ongoing now for over ten years, evolved originally from making still life paintings of newspaper cuttings. Considering still life’s metaphorical function within the history of Western art from 16th-century Netherlandish painting onwards, adopting the obituary as a singular subject enabled Mendes to embrace and affirm the inherent meaning of memento mori: remember death.
“It also allowed me to engage with their idiosyncratic use of paint and perhaps consider a degree of existentialism” – HM
In this series Mendes continues from his 2016 exhibition ‘The Death of the Artist’, which represented a shift from painting various notable figures whose life and work resonated with Mendes, to recently deceased artists only. Significantly, in this exhibition Mendes turns backwards to paint heroic artists from throughout the centuries, all of whom have expressly impacted upon him and his practice. And in using their own self-portraits as source material, Mendes has been able to engage profoundly with the artists’ intentions:
“I used Lucian Freud’s self-portrait a few years ago, then continued to explore this theme with others, such as Francis Bacon and Michael Andrews. This gave me a fascinating new perspective, as I was engaging with their psychology and how they saw themselves. It also allowed me to engage with their idiosyncratic use of paint and perhaps consider a degree of existentialism.”
Indeed, this process has facilitated a meditation on and enabled a conversation with the titans of art history: Picasso, Matisse, van Gogh, Cézanne, El Greco, Vermeer, Rembrandt and Goya all feature. During the making of each of these paintings, Mendes has engaged profoundly with the personality of the artist, investing in and befriending them. He will talk with fondness of the characteristics of every subject, as well as the challenge of integrating their techniques with his own. Each painting, therefore, is activated differently and represents an audacious synthesis of contemporary and historical painting.
Hugh Mendes was born in 1955 Education: 2000-2001: MA Fine Art, City and Guilds of London Art School, London; 1975-1978: BA (Hons) Fine Art, Chelsea School of Art, London
Selected Exhibitions: 2017: In Memoriam Francesca Lowe, Old Truman Brewery, London; 2016: The Death of the Artist (solo), CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, London; 2015: Black Paintings (curated by Zavier Ellis), CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, London; 2014: Nachrufe / Obituaries (solo), BRAUBACHfive, Frankfurt; Obituaries & Other Works (solo), High House Gallery, Oxford; 2013: D.O.A. the Good, the Bad and the Beautiful, Gusford, Los Angeles; War Jacob’s Island, London; 2012: Obituaries (solo), CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, London; 2011: 9/10/11 (solo), KENNY SCHACHTER / ROVE, London; The Saatchi Gallery & Channel 4’s New Sensations and THE FUTURE CAN WAIT, Victoria House, London; Polemically Small (curated by Edward Lucie-Smith), Klaipeda Culture Communication Centre, Klaipeda; THE FUTURE CAN WAIT presents: Polemically Small, Torrance Art Museum, Torrance; 2010: Press Art, Museum der Moderne, Salzburg; 2009: An Existential Itch 2001-2008 (solo), BRAUBACHfive, Frankfurt & Loading Bay Gallery, London; 2008: New London School (curated by Zavier Ellis & Simon Rumley), Mark Moore Gallery, Los Angeles; 2007: Death from Above, Sartorial Contemporary Art, London; 2006: New London Kicks, Projects, New York; 2005: Fuckin’ Brilliant, Tokyo Wonder Site, Tokyo; Art News, Raid Projects, Los Angeles; 2004: Forest, Rockwell Gallery, London; 2003: Chockafukingblocked, Jeffery Charles Gallery, London; 2002: Yesteryearnowadays, Hales Gallery, London
Collections: Ahmanson Foundation, Los Angeles; Wendy Asher, Los Angeles; Jerry Hall, London; Mauritz Huntzinger, Frankfurt; Sammlung Annette und Peter Nobel, Zurich; Kelsey Offield Ford, Los Angeles; Beth Rudin DeWoody, Los Angeles; Kenny Schachter, London; Steve Shane, New York; Soho House, London; Philippe Vergne, Los Angeles; Sammlung Reydan Weiss, Munich; Bill Wyman, London; Wooster Projects, New York; private collections in Belgium, China, France, Germany, Greece, United Kingdom & United States.
Friday 14 September – Saturday 13 October 2018