Expanded essay by Sally Molloy
The Expanded group were lucky enough to secure Sally Molloy to write our exhibition essay (see below).
There’s an elephant in the room. It’s a quiet elephant, but it whispers: painting, painting, painting. That’s what this is about after all: painting. Its boundaries, its specificities, its relevance, its baggage, its seemingly magical or alchemical something-or-other, and the way it – presupposing a sense that it needs to – can renew itself. We could opt to call these just ‘artworks’ but we don’t; we rather insist upon a relatedness with painting perhaps because as Isabelle Graw proposes in ‘The Economy of Painting: Notes on the Value of a Success-Medium’ (2015), “painting is well-equipped to trigger and nourish vitalist projections”. That is to say, paintings imply or index the lived.
This wonderfully spacious notion, via Graw’s lecture, provides a kind of roadmap through Expanded, which, with its array of approaches and outcomes, could be read in total as an ode to boundary-pushing and revitalisation. Take for example Substance (This is not a wardrobe) (2017) by Genevieve Memory, Perrin Millard, and Chris Underwood; it’s not a wardrobe, but it also is a wardrobe, and therein lies a part of its vitality. According to Graw, “the readymade is a way of allowing immaterial labour and the labour of others to enter the aesthetic sphere…the painting gets charged with social living labour through the readymade”. This same charge exists in Genevieve Memory’s Linen Dress (2017) but moreover, having touched the body as a garment, it is charged with the life of its wearer.
In Chasing Light (2017) by Ingrid Bartkowiak and Jenna Nortje, a hand-sewn tracing paper prism offers a surface on which the painting presents itself as a series of delicious gestural marks (the product of a process of recording, projecting, and ‘chasing’ with mud pigments, videos of moving light and shadows). These marks act like ‘pointing fingers’ that gesture toward certain epistemological conditions or experiences and act like ‘agents’. The technological mediator (the digital projection) undermines the artists’ authorship triggering the works’ agency in such a way that the painting appears to have painted itself. It gains a ‘quasi-subjecthood’ as Graw expresses, which “activate[s] the idea that the painting is alive”.
In Untitled by Jennifer Hudson and Natalie Lavelle (so too in the artists’ solo works), the specificity of the picture-on-canvas-on-frame is hyperbolised or literally unravelled in gestures that ask, “what is painting?” Indeed, every work in this space antagonises this point variously. The other subtler question here is “why paint?”. It’s a big murky question – possibly too murky – but the context of an exhibition like this one offers a measure of clarity. An expanded notion of painting suggests paintings that have transgressed their boundaries. When this happens, painting “opens up to the living world” according to Graw. It opens up to the living, changing, perplexing, horrifying, magnificent world and that seems to me reason enough to continue ‘painting’.
 Isabelle Graw, ‘The Economy of Painting: Notes on the Vitality of a Success-Medium”, (Lecture, The Jewish Museum, New York, 4 June 2015). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1JDthDEcmAs