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Norman Rea: Painterly Effluvia

Painterly Effluvia is the rather awe-inspiring title of the latest exhibition to grace the walls of the Norman Rea Gallery.

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Painterly Effluvia at the Norman Rea Gallery

Featuring work by: Marcus Cope, Andrew McCaffery, Neil McNally and Kevin Mason
Curated by: Ally Jeffery
Star Rating: ****

Painterly Effluvia is the rather awe-inspiring title of the latest exhibition to grace the walls of the Norman Rea Gallery. It consists of works by four distinctly different artists: Marcus Cope, Andrew McCaffery, Neil McNally and Kevin Mason. I was initially slightly dubious as to whether their individual artistic styles would combine to create a harmonious exhibition, but I was surprised at how well the pieces worked together.

Apparently my concerns at the prospect of incongruity were shared by the artists themselves. Andrew McCaffery, in his opening night talk alongside fellow artist Kevin Mason, spoke of the importance of where the pieces were hung in their relation to one another. That they were classified under the group heading of Painterly Effluvia helped to bring a unified feel to the whole exhibition, however, and the abstraction of the art served to present an interesting display of forms accessible even to non-History of Art students such as myself. As Kevin Mason put it, the title of Painterly Effluvia was better than calling it "Nice Paintings".

What sets this exhibition apart is the way the pieces are made. Despite including a variety of different media, all involve one crucial feature: paint. Both Andrew McCaffery and Kevin Mason talked about their desire to re-establish paint as a significant medium within the modern art world, and to that end, paint is used in a clever way which really provokes a thoughtful reaction from the audience as they attempt to work out how the piece came to be. One, for example - an Andrew McCaffery piece - seems to have been created by thickly layering acrylic over a patterned surface then partially scraping it off once the paint was tacky. A word must also be said about Gypaetus Barbatus (oil on canvas on stitched wool), which is the large piece dominating the corridor wall just outside the gallery doors. The title means Bearded Vulture, and even in this one piece Marcus Cope presents a dazzling array of techniques including brushwork, spray paint and stitching. These pieces of artwork are like a crime scene; all the evidence is there, but you need to think backwards in order to work out what happened to make it come to be there. Along the way, an insight into the mind of the creator is glimpsed: for these artists, the intensely personal creative process is just as important as the end product.

Painterly Effluvia will be on display at the Norman Rea Gallery until Friday 24th February (Week 7). Look out for the next Norman Rea exhibition, Grand Declines, a photography exhibition featuring work by Paul White, scheduled for the end of February.

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