The phrase “British landscape painting” is more likely to conjure Turner and Constable than any living artist—unless its definition is expanded to include works like Richard Long’s conceptual country walks and Damien Hirst’s lamb in formaldehyde. So it’s no surprise that the eight young painters at Andrea Rosen, all making their first appearances here, seem a bit wary of their fusty cultural inheritance.
Displaying requisite post-YBA cynicism, these artists approach the landscape with all manner of gimmicks and appropriating strategies. Dan Hays does post-impressionism by way of Photoshop, expanding Colorado vistas obtained from a state resident’s weblog into undulating, pixelated grids. Michael Ashcroft culls forest and mountain scenes from a Soviet atlas and enlarges them dramatically, resorting along the way to ham-fisted painterly shortcuts that cross-pollinate Socialist Realism and the sublime.
A number of these “landscape” painters seem more than a little preoccupied with the figure. The wooded areas of Daniel Sinsel’s twee oils are settings for boyish frolicking of the sort rumored to occur in certain areas of Hampstead Heath after dark; Sinsel attaches animal horns to one canvas and a long, bushy tail to another in a deliciously camp and fetishistic gesture. Human antics also ground Dee Ferris’s syrupy, soft-focus foliage and Dexter Dalwood’s pop-history tableaux Chappaquiddick and Rimbaud in Paris, formulaic one-liners from this painter of Kurt Cobain’s Greenhouse and Wittgenstein’s Bathroom.
Oddly enough, the most striking painting depicts neither animal nor vegetable life. In Nigel Cooke’s Catabolic Vanitas, a bile-colored sky morphs into a concrete wall enclosing a post-apocalyptic field of rubble, graffiti, and the occasional severed head. With microscopic precision and uncanny imagination, Cooke sketches out a landscape that, for the moment, has no place in nature.