top of page

Once we were wet. Now we have dried.

Some notes on a specialism, written in a stairwell, being willingly interrupted, between two floors


So, I’ve done the maths. There is only one thing the fifty-two painting shows in this building have in common and it is that they have passed through wetness or wetness has passed through them. In some cases paint or glue has been used and has subsequently dried. In some cases paint, water or spilt liquid is subject or object of an enquiry. In some cases the body is referenced, its liquidity notionally subsumed via acts of violence or travel. Between the wet and the dry of it is a pause. And in that pause we meet. Our risky specialism rests in this space, as time based.

We maintain the case for Painting as a specialism based on its roughly boundaried extremities and see Painting as a critical envoy from history - its longevity allowing commentary and critical distance on newer media and allowing for their reflection and deflection into supposedly ‘known’ terrain, reimagined.


We maintain the case for Painting as a specialism because some of us haven’t had a crack at it for quite as long. In Painting at Wimbledon in the past two years we've explored blackness and Modernism, sexuality and disciplinary specialism, and invited increasing numbers of female practitioners to discuss their relationships to specialist territory. Seeking space for diverse voices in what has been seen as established canonical terrain shifts the ground and reveals lesser known histories of the medium.


We maintain the case for Painting as a specialism because it is a technology and its tropes are both maintained between eye, hand and brush and are being engaged digitally - with media such as TiltBrush and other forms of virtual painting/world building. Links between the mechanical-gestural in autographic work and the surface-ground relationships in digitised forms are altering both. We see the evolution of the technological as intrinsic to our medium. We also use the medium to critique progress and check up on it.


We maintain the case for Painting as a specialism because it allows our research to connect across a team, socialising our activity and creating a community of thinkers and makers. In this way we demonstrate our commonalities, proximities and debates as models for the vitality of networks.

Wimbledon is a site for networked painting that extends its reach to the social and to an expanded idea of image circulation and specialist models of production. Painting has produced flatness, illusion and new forms of visual culture for centuries and now extends its reach to critically ‘visualise the imperative of networks to make everything into a consumable picture transmissible in time and space.’ (Joselit, 2016, p: 180[1]) This is possible where communities are formed around specialist dialogues and knowledge production. A kinder form of intellectualism attaches the curriculum (and what’s at stake in Painting) to what is at stake for us as networked, community-hungry humans, not illustrating the theoretical but demanding its application of ourselves.

While the liquid dries I am reading Jutta Koether’s ‘f’ and note her apt description of the dizziness felt on the attempt to systematize connections between things – between paintings and paintings of paintings and paintings of other things. She writes that, ‘The most beautiful paintings are the ones in which material analysis is pushed to absurdity.’ (Koether, 2015, p: 42)[2] As it seems increasingly absurd to be doing this at all, and with drying out a pre-requisite, I’m advocating for sliding around in the wet as common ground.


As this lot dry off and their show is up I see all this absurdity and presence and densely critical, witty vision.




[1] Hochdorfer, Achim, Ammer, Manuela and Joselit, David (2016), Painting 2.0: Expression in the Information Age, cat. pub. Museum Brandhorst, Munich and MUMOK, Vienna.


[2] Koether, Jutta (2015), f, Sternberg Press, Berlin

bottom of page