|286 x 400 cm, oil on scotch brite|
SAATCHI GALLERY, LONDON 17.2.11
This is a municipal park, I imagine, offering an airy, sunny walk laid out for us by earlier generations who, as the slightly tongue-in-cheek title suggests, had our interests at heart. But this is no ordinary landscape painting. Is the small tree on the left juggling with its leaves? If I understand the convoluted language of the catalogue notes, Ziegler starts with computer-constructed images which are then transformed by ‘the spontaneity of painterly expression’ onto canvas (or in this case onto Scotch-Brite, a reflective industrial fabric). In other words, an inflexible, precise mosaic design turns into something alive and well through the idiosyncrasies of the hand made. It’s full of contradictions: rigid v supple; repetitive v unique, mechanical v organic.
The tough question is: how do you paint perfection when it’s been done so often? Constable’s paintings are living and breathing, and I can feel the wind and the squishy grass under my feet. I like Ziegler’s work for the opposite reason – here every summer leaf and petal is calm, poised and breathless as a ballet dancer. There’s a stillness you usually only get in nature by staring at the outline of trees in winter. If you must have excitement, look at it from different angles when the painting’s surface shifts, because Scotch-Brite is a reflective industrial fabric.
This is Ziegler’s The Grand Cause, also at the Saatchi. Oil, pencil and gold leaf on canvas this time. It’s another way of handling paradox - the rich and luxurious gold leaf is sandbagged (the catalogues says ‘degraded’) by paint, and left gasping.