b. 1969, Limerick, Ireland
Lives and works in London
A problem: because I can't stop looking at them, I would like to describe the things that Damien Meade paints (these are busts, heads, figures that cannot be assimilated to a specific subject, or simply abstract compositions).
And if I'm referring to the things he paints, what things am I talking about? Of the subjects of his paintings or, more broadly, of the paintings themselves, that is, of paintings that are one with the thingness of their subjects?
If, for example, I call the things that are the basis of each painting simply "sculptures", I should point out that these are sculptures that have a temporary, interstitial life, lasting between one painting and another. Which are modeled in clay, but the clay is never fired so that each object can become something else: another form for a new painting.
Talking about Meade's work means dwelling on something that no longer exists, or that ceased to exist before the painting began: it is only thanks to a series of photographic shots that the object was able to become the subject of the painting.
Sometimes you forget about this subject, the referent. This is what happens in front of abstract paintings (that is, which portray completely abstract and two-dimensional clay compositions) such as those in this exhibition: the memory of something that has existed for a few hours, somewhere - in a studio that you have never visited - emerges in a discontinuous form.
Then you ask yourself: to whom does that tactile and contrasting surface really belong, to the painting or object represented? And what happens to an object when it becomes the subject of a painting?
The heads, the busts that Meade paints from time to time - and which in this exhibition are combined with paintings with abstract surfaces as a reminder us that surface leads directly to face (H. Belting) – they instead make us think of portraits and funerary masks (J. von Schlosser) but in portraits to which the painting has given a last residue of vitality, therefore to forms whose material life is prolonged (through photography) in the painting. It is because of those spots, those slightly breathless brushstrokes of colors that can emphasize the contours of a mouth, a nose, or even the eyes, but without giving them a glance.
Meade's figures have faces without gaze (this is why they are disturbing, because the eye conceals something disturbing within itself that comes to light just when the gaze is not there), and they escape a reciprocal relationship with the observer. .
Furthermore, these gazeless heads refer (always intermittently, because the observer never stops looking for a face in them) to their presence as "things", that is, to the idea that the painting we are looking at is a portrait, but the portrait of an object, therefore a still life, as if two traditional genres of painting collapsed into each other.
And that's the point. Meade's paintings seem to summarize aspects that are not fully assimilable and sometimes contradictory: the coexistence of the different languages of painting, sculpture and photography; a painting that continually evokes the ephemeral materiality of sculpture; the classical genres; the figure and abstraction. His paintings exist in the balance between two materialities - that of the picture as an object and that of the thing represented - which recall and re-launch each other.
Davide Ferri, 2018.
The text was written on the occasion of Damien Meade's solo exhibition at CAR DRDE Gallery, in 2018.