I don’t often show hyper-realist paintings on this blog but Marc Dennis‘ pictures take it further, he engages us in a meta narrative full of jokes and juxtapositions that play on our preconceptions; on contemporary culture and our relationship to art history. It’s work that’s deliberately artificial, a piece of theatre that asks us to jump in and play, participate and get involved. A conceptual satire, a game that takes us through the history of art and into the plastic culture of today.
In these paintings within paintings Dennis riffs off everyone from Caravaggio to Courbet, Picasso to Richter and Koons to Hirst, each picture taking us into a gallery in which we share the scene with another; a cheerleader, someone brushing their hair. All young, all beautiful, all personifying our contemporary ideal of what beauty is. Each image working on different levels; we can admire the deftness of his brush and technical ability, muse on the famous artworks and create our own narratives by forming relationships between the viewer and the object.
Like a hip hop track Dennis samples different artists, viewers, angles and poses to create a new picture. His art an attempt to capture our relationship to painting, to the act of looking. Each image exposing a self-conscious media saturated world that is driven by glamour, fame and sex, a world that no longer has time to appreciate anything for itself, is always looking for the next big thing, is flat, a facsimile of the past. It may look the same but scratch the surface and you’ll find there’s nothing there. It’s all about style over substance.
These pictures are both funny, disturbing and sad. Funny in their cleverness, disturbing because they acknowledge our shallow culture and sad because they recognise that we know less than we think and understand nothing. Here’s what he had to say in an interview with Hi – Fructose about his work:
The idea of a painting within a painting affords me lots of creative room to play, to present staged encounters, and conceptual paradox. I’ve always been intrigued with the visual manipulation of space and creating a psychic and erotic tension in my works. Paintings within paintings and viewers standing in front of us, the viewer, plays into what Foucault saw in Magritte’s paintings, the display of visual and conceptual tendencies towards the thoughts on concepts of resemblance and similitude. We, the viewers, are looking at paintings within the actual painting that other viewers are looking at but not what we are looking at in the entirety. We will always see more as the actual viewer. We are confronted with images within images, context within context, narrative within narrative. I guess on one level it’s meta art. Art about art. Painting about painting. The nature of seeing about the nature of seeing.