Groupthink Exhibition, 11th September – 5th October 2013
Fig. 1Bikinis, 2013. Charcoal on paper, 56.5cm x 76cm
Stoner is a British artist, born in 1970, a prolific group exhibition contributor, this exhibition at Purdy Hicks is one of very few solo exhibitions Stoner has had to date. The exhibition is of finished works on paper and according to the exhibition information sheet they ‘reflect how the human unit and group bonding co-exist within forms of folk culture, vernacular media and the imagination.’
For me I feel Stoner is attracted to capturing the human desire, the human need to interact, operate and undertake activities in groups, and/or how the presence of peer pressure and group dynamics can change the actions and even the moral outlook of the individual.
Everything from beauty contests, dancing troupes, family photographs, funerals, marching demonstrators and Nazi soldiers are represented in these works. The exhibition space was not solely occupied by Stoner’s work however he had the entrance wall and the front section of the gallery space, giving you the impression that it was a solo exhibition.
‘Bikinis’ (Fig. 1) is what first attracted me to view Stoner’s work, it is reminiscent of a lithographic piece (a favourite of mine) by Otto Mueller ‘Three Girls in Profile’ (1921) and has for all its vacancy and lack of detail a real sense of capturing the moment. It is a quick sketch, slightly naïve, as is all of Stoner’s work; that gives the impression that he was there, capturing the moment in just a few short brief marks of his charcoal.
It is fascinating to see this process adapted and utilised in various mediums, oil paint, watercolours and various crayons and chalk are all used, all on paper. The use of silhouettes, vague detail and naïve marks, enables you as the subject to create your own story of what is happening in the art works, and yet there are also discernible elements, identifiable that ensure that the original source, the group story that Stoner is attempting to tell is always part of your own interpretation.
Fig. 2 Rah-Rah, 2013. Oil on paper, 33cm x 51cm.
“The subject of Stoner’s work is light, and how painting both creates an illusory space and destroys it with its flatness. The figures imply movement and rhythm, but in painting this is impossible. The dance in painting – think Poussin, Renoir and Matisse – is always about this paradox between immobility and movement, time and timelessness. It is all just an accretion on the surface. What complex paintings they are. They make you realise what a rich, deceptive, unfinished business painting is.” (Searle, 2013)
Stoner’s work is both personal and anonymous, showing details that become clear because they are rendered with an ethereal surface, the moments captured are both real and imaginary, fairytale and reality. It makes us question what we do when we are alone that we wouldn’t do in a group, what we are willing to do or become part of when the group dynamic takes us along, or the peer pressure grows to the point where our individuality is questioned by our own judgment.
Stoner’s work is exhibited simply, with little interpretational information, leaving the viewer to spend time with his work, observing the images from our past or our possible future. ‘George Orwell described a world of Groupthink in his novel 1984, where non-subversion is described as an act of complicity, generating a force that drives humanity into the arms of totalitarianism.’
Q. 1 Searle, Andrew (2013) [The Guardian, Art Review] (Text) at http://www.timstoner.co.uk/www.timstoner.co.uk/About.html (Accessed on the 11.01.14)
Q. 2 Hicks, Purdy (2013) [Gallery Exhibition Information] (Text) at http://www.artlyst.com/events/tim-stoner-purdy-hicks (Accessed on the 11.01.14)