Sunday, 28 February 2010

Michael Raedecker
Tipping Point 2007
Acrylic and thread on canvas 198 x 336 cm (3 parts)
Hauser and Wirth, London
27 September 2007

I always find the wood panelled rooms of this old bank building a strange space to exhibit large contemporary paintings. This show of a mixture of Michael Raedecker’s work was no exception. The subject matter covered the familiar modernist houses, flowers and ruins. The stand out piece for me though was the line of washing drying in the garden. An idea I had had for a painting, but beaten to once again.

I first saw his work in 2000 when he was nominated for the Turner Prize for his fresh approach to painting and his use of unusual materials, the same year as Glenn Brown. He combines thread and paint on the surface, using the stitching to give forms an outline and helps delineate the subject matter. Raedecker takes his images from such disparate sources as Dutch still life painting, photographs of modernist architecture, B-movie scenes and antiquated gardening catalogues creating images that look like film noir sets waiting for actors to come out of the shadows .

Tipping Point is a very large three panel painting that is so sparsely covered with shades of near white that it is hard to make out the banal subject of washing hung on a line. Without the embroidered description this austere image would be taken for an indulgent modernist abstraction. Yet by defining the subject matter on such a bleak surface, it raises disturbing narrative possibilities that nag at our consciousness. The shirts and sheets are blowing in the breeze but this isn’t a washing powder advertisement, this is our dirty washing hung out to dry. It is very difficult to convey in the photograph, but the subtle changes in tone create strange halos of light which radiate from the image making the washing looks like it is dirty. It is this effect that gives the painting its latent power; we note the absence of any human figures, but conditioned by contemporary film and television drama we know something bad is going to happen. The tipping point has been reached.

©blackdog 2009


  1. Your description and analysis of the painting is very interesting- yes, I had -even on the enlargened pic- some problems to realize that "dirty washing hung out to dry" has been 'depictured' -I see large clothes- curtains blowing and arching in a heavy wind -a subject Mike Newton once dealt with, too (on a caravan painting!)- a lovely scene which reminds me of my childhood and I remember the fresh smell of the washing airing outside - but when and where do we see a "line of washing drying in the garden" nowadays? - perhaps on a camping place or on canal ships in Netherlands and otherwhere?- I like this scene!
    But you say: "dirty washing"- and this reminds me of an idiom/ phrase we know in English/American and German, but particularly in Dutch ("vuile was niet buiten hangen")- if this painting were influenced by an old Dutch stilleven, there could be such an ethical warning "inzitten"- but I'm not sure if such a message may have been intented by a modern artist- I think your feeling "something bad is going to happen"- in connection with the title- may be right. But is this 'melancholy'?

  2. Just in this time we are witnesses of terrible actions which have been happened in our country, but also in Ireland and the States- the Roman Catholic Church has hanging out their dirty laundry in the public (sexual abuse at schools...)- and I'm afraid it will be never drying! (sorry, not any aesthetical point)