Alex Pollard

Primary page content

Alex Pollard's MPhil/PhD Art research project

A Genealogy of Bad Painting: Legacies, Soft Objects and Networks

The thesis re-examines and re-configures the category of Bad Painting.

By selecting a disparate group of Bad Painters, explored in the form of small case studies, the research creates an imaginary, timeless peer group that crosses over the genre. This imagined group includes Martin Kippenberger, Philip Guston, Rene Magritte, – especially of the Période Vache – Lee Lozano, Sandy Guy, and Andreas Schulze.

The thesis proposes a new model for understanding Bad Painting in relation to both networked painting (as advocated by David Joselit in his “Painting Beside Itself”) and new materialism. The resonances of the latter are reflected back through Bad Painting in terms of what the thesis describes as “Soft Object Painting”.

By supplying an idiosyncratic contextual framework, these case studies enabled the production of a body of Bad Paintings made over several years at Goldsmiths. These works borrowed strategies, tactics, attitudes and styles from multiple approaches. Many things entered the practice as a result, including the outsourcing of painting labour in

Chinese workshops as a form of networked production influenced by the networked production of Lee Lozano and the theories of David Joselit; overpainting commissioned paintings; colliding styles and themes in unexpected combinations, such as the juxtaposition of illustrational techniques with the conservative brushwork of painterly abstraction, in the manner of Ivon Hitchens or Howard Hodgkin; use of found images that refer to other areas and histories of cultural production.

Through both the practice and the written element, the research proposes to update the genre of Bad Painting. This is largely done by associating the two ideas of “painting as network” and “soft object painting” with the notion of “flattened ontologies”. The research attempts to forge a fresh pathway for Bad Painting, allowing for the continuation of a slippery, de-centred, timeless and rhizomatically structured genre.