photo: Zubin Shroff, Inc.Monochromatic Approach
In these recent major paintings, Mark Tansey uses irony and surreal combinations of places and historical figures to make uncanny but coherent connections between ideas and events. The canvases are based on photocopied images and figures culled from the artist's library of popular, academic, and art-historical sources. Tansey mixes and matches this appropriated imagery, using a calculated system of opposition, reversal, and contradiction to create his seemingly realistic historical scenarios. However, the artist's pictorial realities are intended less as literal truths than as metaphor.
Both matter-of-fact and abstruse, Tansey's monochromatic paintings resemble documentary photographs even though they depict wholly impossible situations. His tightly representational style invites us to believe in his preposterous inventions despite the obvious inconsistencies that beg for explanation.
Ultimately, these paintings are not just an opportunity to discover some hidden, complicated meaning. They are proof that representations, whether realistic or historical, are inherently problematic. Tansey challenges our perceptions of what seems at first recognizable, leaving us with provocative and open-ended questions, not answers.