Paste ups and paint

This weekend's excitement has been the arrival of a new work of art to add to our humble collection. This piece is by Bristol-based artist Kedals whose work we have had a beady eye on for a while now. He has left it untitled, but it's becoming known here as Luscious Lips.

Kedals, Untitled (2020)

As well as working with paint, Kedals is a paste up street artist. His canvas is the street, and his process takes from the street too. Sometimes he rips down posters that he sees pasted up and incorporates them into his own work, combining paper and acrylic paint into collages on board. Kedals loads his brush with paint (a technique called impasto), layering it on thickly to create a surface texture that, together with the layers of paper from posters and magazines, gives a three-dimensionality to his paintings. He also uses a mixture of matt and gloss finish in his paints to add to the visual complexity of the surfaces of his artworks.

There are many 20th century artists who are the forerunners to a beguiling work like this. Firstly, it's in a long line of artworks of Woman as Femme Fatale. We can't help but immediately be reminded visually of Austrian secessionist painter Gustav Klimt's Judith I (1901):

Just like in Klimt's piece there's no visual depth behind the figure in Kedals' piece - her face and body is all you see. And similarly to Klimt, Kedals uses pattern to flatten out her body.

The heavy outline in bright orange and blue also flattens the figure, contrasting with the realistically painted face. Kedals is playing with our visual reading of perspective, combining texture and paint finish to make our eye focus on her head. The striking black hair, standing out against the bright blue behind her head, draws the viewer into her dark eyes and red lips.

The woman in Kedals' painting is unknown, from a photograph he found in an old magazine. He used it on some paste ups too. There's something vampish and blood-sucking in her red lips in these posters, which Kedals has changed and softened in the painting:

The colour in this piece though. It is INCREDIBLE. Kedals has used bold, bright swathes of paint in a powerful way to communicate a feeling, an emotion. This is a technique Henri Matisse used in his paintings. Like Portrait with a Green Stripe from 1905, for example:

Henri Matisse, Portrait with a Green Stripe (1905). Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen. © H. Matisse / DACS.

Kedals has talked about his love of Keith Haring's work, and here too you can see his influence on colour. Just like in Haring's work, there are joyful swirls of thick coloured paint throughout Kedals' pieces.

Keith Haring in front of one of his murals.

Haring blazed a colourful trail through the legendary art scene of 1980s New York, dying young from AIDS-related complications in 1990. You can clearly see the influence of Haring's paint lines in Kedals' work above. But in his use of an almost electric colour palette and freedom with the paintbrush there is also something reminiscent of the late great English abstract expressionist artist Albert Irvin (1922-2015), particularly his later works. Like this one, Ellington, from 2005:

And we haven't even talked about the influence of Pop Art in Kedals' work. It's perhaps more obvious in artworks such as this one, Dime a Dozen:

The legacy of pioneering pop artists like Robert Rauschenberg on our cut-and-paste visual culture, the collation of seemingly random images from which we try to get some elusive coherent meaning, lives on in the work of Kedals. These artists reflect back to us truncated and dislocated images from the mass media and urban life.

Robert Rauschenberg, Buffalo II (1964).

Buying art is such a personal thing. You've got to love the piece really, because it's going to adorn your walls and become part of your daily existence, the backdrop to your life. We've got Luscious Lips looking over us for now, and it's dreamy.

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