Spencer Finch abstracts the Pope
Nicholas Logsdail, Founder and Director of the eponymous Lisson Gallery, London talked about one of Spencer Finch’s most abstract works to date. The artist, known for working on a monumental scale and utilizing a wide range of more industrial materials in his work, selected a more traditional medium for this diptych on view at the gallery’s booth at The Armory Show. As we found out Finch essentially resampled an iconic 16th century masterpiece ‘Pope Innocent X‘ by Diego Velazquez and the resulting cluster of abstracted dots is a Contemporary reduction of the well-known portrait.
The Velasquez masterpiece has been the subject of interpretation not only by Finch, but most famously by Francis Bacon who depicted the seated Pope in a much more sinister and fragmented narrative. Spencer Finch’s approach differs from Bacon’s in the way they see the object itself. In Finch’s abstracted retelling there seems to be less personal involvement and therefore we don’t get a sense that he tells us his personal opinion on the controversial Pope, as did Bacon. In the current diptych, it’s as if we see the molecular trace of the Pope after he went through a Star Treck-like energizer.
Nicholas Logsdail: Spencer Finch, you might call in a certain sense a poet, a conceptual artist, a painter, or an idea artist. What you see here, literally, is what they seem to be – drops of paint; dripped onto paper.
What he’s rendering here though is a painting that he saw in the (Museo del) Prado at Madrid, by the famous Spanish Old Master Diego Velazquez. This is a beautiful red garment that is so exquisitely painted that it entranced him, and he started making a record of all the different variations of color in his garment: the folds, how it is catching the light, so on and so forth.
This is actually a rendering of different parts of that garment, but it appears to be something abstract, almost even a bit nonsensical. Except, it’s beautiful, it’s poetic, and it’s kind of scientific.
A great artwork is not exactly what it seems to be. If it is, then you might as well have a photograph.
Interview © galleryIntell. Artwork © Spencer Finch, courtesy of Lisson Gallery.