Past: February 28 → March 29, 2011
In Keegan McHargue’s work, the painting is both backdrop and stage, each work an uncanny tableau from a world not entirely unlike reality, in which grotesque characters are caught, unable to escape the capricious and twisted logic that produced them. Cut-out figures float over depthless grids, while the arches and walkways around them dead-end in the sudden flat-coloured ground of the canvas. Monstrous creatures attest to the potential of any part of the scene to develop into any other, to effloresce, bifurcate, become translucent or prismatic, according to the scheme of each unfolding allegory.
Fragmented views of factories of obscure purpose, their arcane pipework dripping flat teardrops, build into melancholy systems whose imagined functions reflect psychological circuits as much as they allude to the arbitrary and controlling infrastructures of the contemporary political economy. The faces that stare out of this fractured, animistic surface range from those of sentient puppets just free enough to flash a helpless, puzzled look to the audience as the scenery melts around them, to the carnivalesque masks of participants in some unknown, degenerate ritual.
Throughout the work there’s a sense that the question is not how can the painting depict the world, but how does the world invade, affect and shape the endlessly mutable space of the painting. A potential abstract order is continually undercut by its unstoppable tendency to represent, and the works stage an oddly moral struggle between the seductive possibilities of the painted surface and a responsibility to some recoverable reality, an unfolding engagement that has overflowed the boundaries of allegory to occupy not only the symbolic figures but the entire visual field.