Christie Contemporary is pleased to present Roundabout, an exhibition of new paintings by Nick Ostoff, opening Saturday, March 31 and continuing until April 28.
Nick Ostoff is interested in the way in which quotidian space is transformed through memory, absence, the mechanics of photographic representation and painterly process. In reframing overlooked but familiar visual phenomena, Ostoff seeks to heighten perceptual ambiguity, to suggest supressed elements of the uncanny, and in doing so, to activate a kind of phenomenological intensity. In his work, there is a palpable sense of the ‘not seen,’ in part achieved with a working methodology involving reduction and restraint, where seemingly straightforward imagery is all but ushered away from the conventions of representation, to create an elliptical viewing experience in which fixed perspectives are destabilized.
Roundabout marks a detour away from recent work, which explored aspects of the interior domestic sphere through Ostoff’s own photographic source material. Here, a series of paintings and mixed-media works on paper are based on a single found photographic image, which depicts one half of a circular train track in an amusement park located somewhere in North America. Initially sourced in 2005, when Ostoff was engaged in a series of works exploring family snapshots and sites of middle-class leisure, the image itself is much older, likely taken in the 60’s or 70’s.
Here, rather than capturing the specificity of a space, Ostoff is now more intrigued with the layers of temporal and spatial distance it contains, and how the circularity of the tracks alludes to the nature of memory, which can act as a structuring device for painterly production. Working with a range of transformational operations related to both digital reproduction and painterly process – degrading clarity through multiple generations, framing extreme close-ups of chance details, repeating the same composition across multiple paintings, exploring vagaries of light, mood and atmosphere through shifts in colour and tone, and mirroring the image in diptych form so that one half of the track becomes a fictitious circular whole – each successive painting becomes a flickering scene in an iterative, quasi-cinematic carousel. While these scenes still bear some faint trace to the temporal and spatial specificity of the photographic source (taken at a particular time, on a particular day, in a particular place), their subsequent refiguring equally suggests the opposite: that they may never have existed in any real sense at all.