Saturday, 19 September 2009

Paul Winstanley

Man Watching TV 2003
Oil on Linen 100 x 121 cm
Frieze Art Fair
15 October 2004

I was lucky to see this work at the Frieze Art Fair in London on the stand of the American Gallery “1031PE”, as it is now in a private collection. He paints very few with figures, usually preferring paintings based on photographs of uninhabited interiors and landscapes. It is unusual in another respect too, his paintings are usually drained of colour and this has a vibrant warm orange contrasting with the blues of the interior.

The title describes the subject of the painting, a man watching television but gives nothing away of the circumstances. However, looking at the painting I make my own associations, and these are of passing time in a waiting room.

The type of chairs, the arrangement around a decorative rug and the lack of a bed suggests a waiting room or a common room in a private hospital rather than a hotel room. We see the man only from the back as we join him in the room and wonder which chair to select. I feel drawn into remembering the times I have experienced this situation myself and the selective blurring and distortion that he has used to develop the image from the original photograph lend it the atmosphere of a memory.

The obvious parallel with his work is with the paintings of Gerhard Richter, but I sense Winstanley is less interested in the reproduction of a photograph than with exaggerating the atmosphere of a memory that is remembered through experience rather than the nostalgia associated with a snapshot.

His uninhabited interiors are usually of non-spaces such as lobbies, offices, corridors and windows with net curtains; places that we pass through without a thought. Whilst they too can have melancholic associations I don’t think they are as strong as those I felt looking at this painting and that is something to do with having to share the space with another.

©blackdog 2009


  1. An excellent description and analysis of this painting I completely agree! It is a painting depicturing an usual daily life scene, a usual (collective) behaviour in our modern times- there is a feeling of loneliness- only a medial communication via TV or Computer..., in this way the painting reminds me also of some Hopper paintings! The 'face' of the TV can be seen whereas the face of the human being is unknown for us- this enhances the impression of anonymity, loss of individuality and personality! A painting which may evoke some thoughts- and it is quite more than a pure photograph (but I have some difficulty to explain and to express why...)!

  2. Yes a bit of a Hopper for our times - his other work has that quality of observation too. Good point about the face of the TV - makes me curious to know what the programme was!