In Tradition-Bound Britain, Brushing Off Paint By Blake Gopnik

In Tradition-Bound Britain, Brushing Off Paint By Blake Gopnik
Washington Post Sunday, May 16, 2004; Page N06

(extract) Back again in the East End, in a converted concrete shed just a little way from Ibid, I visited the artist-run Keith Talent Gallery. (It`s named after a character in the Martin Amis novel `London Fields,` whose title refers to the famously rough neighborhood that surrounds the gallery.) Here there was more video, this time doing yet slightly different work that painting used to do so well -- back when it was still our crucial means for dealing with the world we see.

The gallery`s courtyard featured a projection by British artist Anthony Shapland, showing static footage of the top of a street lamp shot in soft, grainy color. Over the course of many minutes, we got to watch the lamp come on as the evening sky behind went dark. Once the lamp was fully lit, the scene cut to the early dawn; now we got to hear birds singing their morning songs, see the sky begin to lighten and watch the lamp turn off. These were little haiku glimpses of the neglected everyday, as full of poetry as any classic landscape painting rendering the English countryside at dawn or dusk. But by avoiding the easy appeal of Olde Englysh oil paint, Shapland keeps that poetry alive and current, instead of letting it become a thick brocade of poetastery. Every modern landscape done in oils inevitably has embedded in it a touch of `hark!` and `lo!` and ` `twas` that video can still avoid.