LAST SUPPER SERIES – Parisian Laundry, Montreal, 2005

Apparent Content, John K. Grande

Catalogue 2005

Artforum 2005

Working on and with the Christ at the Last Supper theme, Leonardo da Vinci dedicated his 15 by 29 foot tempera on plaster fresco in 1498, Deon Venter reinvents the image and develops a series of works that perambulate around Leonardo’s original and universally recognized image.  Venter’s approach to this religious theme is relativistic.  He is less interested in the recreation of a motif than in reconstructing it, so as to bring a novel perspective to what is essentially a human drama and one indelibly inscribed within the vernacular of our Judeo-Christian tradition.  Ironically, Venter introduces signology, repeated motifs, sometimes quite colourful.  They add a layer of meaning, rebuilding aspects of iconic meaning.  Sometimes he will focus on a detail, recreate it, only to add an entirely separate motif.  We begin to read The Last Supper in a less didactic yet very contemporary way.

Deon Venter plays with the way we recreate meaning, intuit a spiritual component to ambiguity, to vagueness, to what the 19th century critic John Ruskin once called “time and tide”. Venter’s intriguing mixed media on canvas paintings are quite large in scale.  The narrative developed is one that ambulates, that moves around, or circumnavigates the original Last Supper motif.  Using the simple metaphor of The Last Supper, he moves us visually and structurally through gradations of meaning.  We note that a chair has no seat in it yet it sits on a cube.  The referencing could as readily be to the postmodern exhibition space as to an inner (spiritual) presence and absence.  There are likewise perspectival grids superimposed on images of Christ at the The Last Supper whose original is still in situ at the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milano, Italy.  Venter plays on and with the clarity of image, the certitude of colour, and surface effect particularly effectively in Place in History, but echoes of this resound throughout the show.  Sometimes the grid dominates, other times the iconic representation, occasionally design takes over as when series of faces, or chairs alternate and visually vie for our attention within a singular canvas.

The ambiguity of our reading of ancient or classical imagery is something that continually fixes our apperception and reading of historical meaning.  Often an image can appear quite unclear yet awaken numerous sensations and associations.  This is precisely because of the way time – the centuries – completely alter the surface reading of a work that after restoration may look too bright, too colourful, so conditioned have we become to the stereo-typical way that “ancient” or “antique” should be read.

Bare walls inspired Leonardo da Vinci just as they did Brian O”Doherty when he wrote Inside the White Cube:  The Ideology of the Gallery Space for Artforum in 1976.  Artists and public are much less certain of what history, its processes, and its potential product actually are or could be in 2005 than we were in the 1970s.  The springboards we jump off are less material, more ambiguous, and even seem immaterial at times.  And yet Venter’s approach to painting is, in a sense, to suggest painting is a process that can eternally be added to or removed from.  In a work – the surface carries with it an endless potential.  Some of the titles of his works contain meaning as we see with Rubbed Out and Scrubbed Out.  One is reminded of the story of Rauschenberg’s purchase of a De Kooning drawing that he erased after he bought it.  We live in such times.  What were once historical certitudes are now unclear.

The titling of Venter’s paintings is playful and their latent humour has a lot to do with the situation of painting in a postmodern image laden and data driven universe.  His paintings both past and present are cyclical by nature.  Indeed, Venter reinvigorates our sense of nature’s place within the Judeo-Christian tradition, or any religious hierarchy that has ancient roots for that matter.  His recent paintings suggest that any religious or informational content can be read predictably or in a relativistic way.

By challenging the essential structure and hierarchy of symbology that is part of the Judeo-Christian traditions with a painterly flair for the perspectival grid and the iconic presentation, Deon Venter has succeeded in reawakening even more ancient origins that are based in nature, in nature worship.  To witness a tree trunk bound up on the Last Supper table in Geloofmaak brings us to the crux of today’s historical crisis which has much to do with humanity, yet involves our abuse of, and disregard for our place in nature.  This huge tree trunk tied up is bound by history, by the precedents of our ancestors, the lineage of our tradition onto this sacred table.  But need it be?  Such a question arises from all this.  We seek a new paradigm or an alternative reading as our understanding of the relativity of all things, including religious perspectives, grows.  Any reading of a religious or historical event is ultimately inaccurate, even fictional, though the way we understand the historical process itself may lead to certain truths.  Deon Venter’s paintings are part of this artist’s search for meaning.  This search involves memory, recognition, history, and ultimately a sense of personal identity less caught up in stereotypes than in the moment of self recognition that accompanies any real inquiry into our state(s) of being.  The art historical paradigm is referenced, and freely (re)interpreted.

 

Need. I in people a which my or removed from. In a work – the surface carries with it an endless potential. Some of the titles of his works contain meaning as we see withRubbed Out and Scrubbed Out. One is reminded of the story of Rauschenberg’s purchase of a De Kooning drawing that he erased after he bought it. We live in such times. What were once historical certitudes are now unclear.

The titling of Venter’s paintings is playful and their latent humour has a lot to do with the situation of painting in a postmodern image laden and data driven universe. His paintings both past and present are cyclical by nature. Indeed, Venter reinvigorates our sense of nature’s place within the Judeo-Christian tradition, or any religious hierarchy that has ancient roots for that matter. His recent paintings suggest that any religious or informational content can be read predictably or in a relativistic way.

By challenging the essential structure and hierarchy of symbology that is part of the Judeo-Christian traditions with a painterly flair for the perspectival grid and the iconic presentation, Deon Venter has succeeded in reawakening even more ancient origins that are based in nature, in nature worship. To witness a tree trunk bound up on the Last Supper table in Geloofmaak brings us to the crux of today’s historical crisis which has much to do with humanity, yet involves our abuse of, and disregard for our place in nature. This huge tree trunk tied up is bound by history, by the precedents of our ancestors, the lineage of our tradition onto this sacred table. But need it be? Such a question arises from all this. We seek a new paradigm or an alternative reading as our understanding of the relativity of all things, including religious perspectives, grows. Any reading of a religious or historical event is ultimately inaccurate, even fictional, though the way we understand the historical process itself may lead to certain truths. Deon Venter’s paintings are part of this artist’s search for meaning. This search involves memory, recognition, history, and ultimately a sense of personal identity less caught up in stereotypes than in the moment of self recognition that accompanies any real inquiry into our state(s) of being. The art historical paradigm is referenced, and freely (re)interpreted.