Michael Lindeman: Next Offer - Art Collector

Issue 62, October - December 2012

Michael Lindeman is well known for his classifieds paintings in which he shines an uncomfortably bright light on art’s role as just another commodity. But not one to settle into expectations, his recent work takes the critique one step further writes Courtney Kidd.

When Michael Lindeman’s Paintings, prints and wall hangings won the 2010 Sulman Prize it propelled dialogue about art and commerce while nodding to Duchamp en route. The suite of canvases based on classified advertisements for artworks engaged with the ironic play of banal subject matter elevated to gallery status. It beckoned viewers to look and imagine the advertised work on offer. That, in part, was its wit and skill. Audiences enticed into more than a passing glance were engaging in an interpretative power that privileged ideas over traditional material and aesthetic concerns.

Lindeman’s conceptual practice hinges on a critique of art as a commodity and his being a willing participant in this critique. He has been interrogating such ideas since graduating from Sydney’s College of Fine Arts in 2004. His ability to transpose feeling to canvas earned him a residency in New York’s prestigious International Studio and Curatorial Program in 2007. He recalls it as “the best residency … being exposed to collectors, critics, gallerists and other artists … It helped cut any of the romanticising about being an artist.” And Lindeman’s market sense is focused: “It is a tough game when you are dealing in luxury commodities. Anyone engaged in cultural practice feels the heat.”

With 13 solo shows to his name and the recent exhibition of five text paintings in
Lie of the Land: New Australian Landscapes at the Australian Embassy in Washington, Lindeman is cutting an impressive trajectory in the contemporary culture he exposes.

But as if to debunk any prescriptive viewing of his practice, the works in the artist’s forthcoming exhibition,
Skeleton Makes Good, present as humorous deconstructions. “They act as the disembodied soul of commercial advertising, a haunted parody of the built-in obsolescence of consumer culture,” he explains. The medium is the message and in neutralising and thus sabotaging the message he is offering art as salve to counter the grotesqueries of commodification and advertising.

“By stripping bare all signifiers from the appropriated advertisements, the recent paintings emerge as ghostly and enigmatic post-painterly abstractions,” says Lindeman, who cites the work of Sydney Ball as an influence along with that of Ian Burn, Robert MacPherson and, further afield, John Baldessari, who is recognised for tormenting the narrative potential of images.

Cool and conceptual, the paintings’ surfaces are formally resolved while their titles pop like speech bubbles above the urban static. Their palette, mimicking that of the printing process, has an almost imperceptible tactility achieved by the canvas’s grainy texture and the tools – those of hard edged abstraction, namely brushes, spray guns and paint rollers – used to build flat colour. It is a muted palette, a kind of dirty tutti frutti. Seductive and beautiful in its evasive lack of clarity and its haunting restraint, it achieves what the artist intended, an “aesthetic elevation”.

And while Duchamp, now a man of last century, publicly privileged chess over art, Lindeman, an artist of this century, competing with a plethora of digital refuse, is pursuing painting as an exchange for services rendered and significantly as a means to interrogating the ways art is seen.

Michael Lindeman’s
Skeleton Makes Good can be seen at Sullivan+Strumpf Fine Art in Sydney from 16 October to 3 November 2012.

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