Magazine article The Spectator

From Dumb to Singing Pictures

Magazine article The Spectator

From Dumb to Singing Pictures

Article excerpt

From dumb to singing pictures PATRICK CAULFIELD PAINTINGS by Marco Livingstone Lund Humphries, £35, pp. 224, ISBN 0853319170

Patrick Caulfield's paintings look specific while giving us tantalisingly little to go on. Where are we? Seemingly, a spotlight moves, the disc of dislocated brightness slithering over tablecloth, tankard, swirly-plastered wall and simulated half-timber. Could this be a Vermeer-themed hostelry for the discriminating guest? Details punctuate the ambience. Take a pew, why don't we, and let each picture absorb us.

Things like chained pen sets and buttoned-effect wallpaper are stimulants for Caulfield, his eye-catchers, his wherewithal. Everything about them, the silhouettes they present, the shadows they cast, the angle they are seen from, the way they are painted, is calculated to clue us in; intense colour, deployed with verve, makes the details float and shine like heraldic devices in immaculate picture space.

What surprises, in a handsome book illustrating Caulfield's progress, from his sly homages to banality of 40 years ago to the magnificent golds and purples and six degrees of shadow of 'Bishops', his most recent painting, is the elliptical darkening of mood. In his text (largely composed of essays originally published in exhibition catalogues) Marco Livingstone talks about 'the forlorn artefacts and interiors that have fostered his visual thoughts'. Forlorn, yes, but Caulfield has always relished the way things mutely communicate. Given an ashtray or a dozen wan daffodils, who needs plonking human presence? …

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