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13 Oct 2010

Clive Head and Michael Paraskos in Discussion at National Gallery, London

Clive Head at work on the painting South Kensington. Courtesy Marlborough Fine Art.

The New Aesthetics: Clive Head
National Gallery, London


Monday 1 November 2010 at 12.30pm. Entry free, all welcome. Tickets not needed.

Dr Michael Paraskos

National Gallery
Trafalgar Square
London WC2N 5DN

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The National Gallery, London, in association with publishers Lund Humphries, is honoured to present the artist Clive Head and leading new generation art critic Dr Michael Paraskos in discussion on Monday 1 November 2010 at 12.30pm.

Clive Head (b. 1965) is probably one of the best kept secrets in British art. Despite being the leading British realist painter of his generation, and possessing an international reputation that has seen his work enter major private and public collections across the world, he is relatively little known outside the art world. Within art, however, he is highly regarded, not only for the astonishing quality of his paintings, in which drawing skill, understanding of colour and compositional excellence are manifest, but for the depth of his understanding of key issues in contemporary visual art.

In his paintings Head attempts to create an alternative universe that looks uncannily like our own world, but is spatially very different from it. His starting point is always to stand in a specific location, such as the entrance to a London Underground station or an unassuming coffee shop, where he will gather information by sketching, photographing and simply experiencing the scene. But the end point is never to recreate an image of that location, it is to invent an artificial world that convinces the viewer of its reality. This sets up a complex relationship in Head's paintings, between their resemblance to somewhere we might know, like a London street, and Head's insistence that we are in fact looking through a framed 'window' at another reality.

The primary difference between Head's painted realities and the reality of every day life lies in the way they define space. Head does not present a vista or view like a camera, he shows an entire environment, and if we were to try to replicate seeing one of his environments in real life we could not do it by visiting the location and simply looking straight ahead. Instead we would have to look ahead and simultaneously to our extreme left and extreme right, up and down as far as our heads could go, and even behind us. At the same time we would have to walk around the location, peering round corners, and experiencing the passage of time. Head's paintings are in effect more like the record of a living human body wandering around a location, rather than a static snapshot of a part of it. Consequently his work most closely resembles a movie camera panning around a scene, but the closest painting equivalent is in the multiple viewpoints, shifts of scale and games played with time seen in a Cubist painting by Picasso or Braque. Unlike a shattered Cubist image, however, Head uses a realist language of painting to render his experience into something coherent and whole. This places Head at the forefront of contemporary aesthetic theory and practice, as he seeks to reinvent painting for the twenty-first century.

To coincide with the exhibition of paintings by Clive Head at the National Gallery, London (13 October to 28 November 2010), the publisher Lund Humphries has commissioned the leading art critic Dr Michael Paraskos to produce a major new book on Head and his work. To celebrate the launch of this book, Head and Paraskos will be in conversation at the National Gallery Lecture Theatre on 1 November 2010.

They will discuss the ideas in the book, Clive Head's work and broader issues to do with the future of painting.

Dr Michael Paraskos is one of a new generation of writers on art associated with the New Aesthetics. He is a regular contributor to newspapers, magazines, radio and television. He was editor of the book Re-Reading Read: New Views on Herbert Read, and author of Steve Whitehead, The Table Top Schools of Art and Is Your Artwork Really Necessary? His latest book, Regeneration, is a radical rethinking of the purpose of art in the modern world. He has also organised conferences at Tate Britain and the Whitechapel Gallery.

Paraskos's book on Clive Head the first full-length monograph on the artist's work and in it Paraskos sets out to introduce Head to a wider public. The book incorporates a short history of Head's work to date, examining a number of his paintings in detail in order to illuminate his working processes, but it also sets out a real platform for change in the art world that is both exciting and challenging.

That change is nothing less than a paradigm shift, redefining the fundamental nature of the avant-garde for the twenty-first century.