Slow, thick fingers
Alexis Harding, Flore Nové-Josserand, Damian Taylor, Alaena Turner, John Wallbank and Forever Blowing Bubbles (Bernat Daviu & Joana Roda)
13 February - 12 March 2016
PV Friday 12 February, 6-9pm
Alaena Turner was artist-in-residence at Kingsgate Workshops in 2009. To inaugurate our annual artist-as-curator opportunity, Alaena was invited to return to Kingsgate and to conceive a curated exhibition which explored issues central to her own research and painting practice. Slow, thick fingers and its accompanying events, were therefore open-ended propositions which strive to test ideas and to interrogate other artists’ approach to the potency or otherwise of touch.
“Inevitably, to paint means to touch, and touching risks embarrassment.” David Sweet 
“Look, but don’t touch.
Touch, but don’t taste.
Taste, don’t swallow."
The Devil’s Advocate 
Slow, thick fingers brought together a range of contemporary practitioners to explore touch as gesture. Touch (derived etymologically from the Old French tochier, which translates to “slight attack” ) is understood as a communicative act expressed through the body, a specific and self-conscious gesture. Touch is ordinarily constrained by social conventions that dictate appropriate degrees of contact or distance between two bodies - and here employed primarily as a means to address the performance of painting.
The selected artists employ a range of strategies to ask how touch, or the act of touching, could make visible the daily work of the painter. Temporary works made on site by Alexis Harding and Flore Nové-Josserand question the dynamic between tactility and mark-making, articulating the particular temporal and spatial relationships of display. Damian Taylor presents recent work which foregrounds incidental details accumulated through the transport of materials to his studio, positioning the delivery service as an accidental collaborator in the development of the painted image. The protruding surfaces of John Wallbank’s work appear to anticipate the (unwanted) hand of the viewer, whilst Alaena Turner’s Secret Action Painting series, similarly explores touch as frustrated gesture by describing an event that is not seen. In acknowledgement of the limited hospitality of the conventional ‘Look, but don’t touch’ model, which remains in place for this exhibition, art caterers, Forever Blowing Bubbles, will serve art-history cocktails, framing ingestion as a radical form of touch.
If we follow the argument put forward by art critic David Sweet, that painting can be reduced to a process of touching, then painting seems to be characterised by a certain lightness of work, differentiating artistic productivity from labour, and skill from manual dexterity. The curatorial decision to include practitioners in this exhibition, who may not identify themselves specifically as painters, is intended to question the degree to which touch might be useful as a way to articulate painting practice in relation to other contemporary forms of image production. Is painting embarrassing? And if so, can we make use of embarrassment as a productive condition?
The title of this exhibition, Slow, thick fingers , comes from a description of the approximate and materially seductive manner in which Manet painted hands. Approaching painting through the visibility of material qualities proposes a way of reading painting that takes into account the overall experience of the body, complementing visual experience with the implied tactile sensations of pushing, grabbing or holding. This perhaps aligns painting practice to everyday physical activities, moving towards an understanding of what is adjacent to painting, “the kitchen, the discotheque, the city, the house of fashion”  - what is painting touched by?
Closing Event | ‘Night Tour (after The Exposition Internationale du Surrealism)’
Saturday 12 March, from 6:30pm
The evening began with a re-creation of the lighting set-up of The Exposition Internationale du Surrealism (1938), providing an opportunity to closely inspect the material details of the artworks in the show. This was followed by a discussion and Q&A chaired by painter Jeffrey Dennis with the exhibiting artists, organised in association with PaintClub.
Jeffrey Dennis is one of the founders of Paint Club - an informal network open to anyone with an interest in contemporary painting, that started out in the colleges of the University of the Arts London, but has grown to other institutions both in the UK and world-wide. Paint Club hosts one to two events a year that respond to the concerns and interests of the group. Their activities publicly explore and debate what it means to 'research' painting within the context of contemporary art practice.
The evening closed with Barcelona-based art caterer's Forever Blowing Bubbles (Bernat Daviu and Joana Roda) serving 'Mondrian's Nightmare'.
1. David Sweet, Touched and Untouched: The wealth of painting, 2014. Abstractcritical.com
2. Speech delivered by Al Pacino, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGR4SFOimlk The Devil’s Advocate, IMDb Film (1997).
3. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the verb ‘touch’ as any of the following acts: ‘to strike, to smite, to hit, to touch, to knock’. https://webaccess.unine.ch/+CSCO+dh756767633A2F2F6A6A6A2E
4. The title of this exhibition is taken from George Moore’s description of the way Edouard Manet painted hands, “Never did this mysterious power which produces what artists know as ‘quality’ exist in greater abundance in any fingers than it did in the slow, thick fingers of Edouard Manet”. Quoted in Fried, M. Manet’s Modernism: Or the Face of modernism in 1860s. 1996. University of Chicago Press (p.415)
5. Quoting Jan Verwoert, Painting in the Present Tense, Walker Art Centre, Pub. Feb 6 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scYj-bDEaKI