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Rudolf Stingel

9 April - 9 July 2006 

Rudolf Stingel

Rudolf Stingel: installation view, "Rudolf Stingel", Inverleith House, 2006.  

This was the fourth in a series of exhibitions in which contemporary artists were invited to show their work at the same time as newly exhibited botanical drawings from the Garden's collection. In previous years, new work by Laura Owens and Cathy Wilkes and the private portraits of Andy Warhol had all been exhibited in this way. On this occasion, the Italian-born artist Rudolf Stingel (b. 1955) made new work for the ground-floor rooms, whilst South Indian Botanical Drawings by the little-known artists Rungiah and Govindoo are shown for the first time, upstairs. This substantial selection of recently conserved drawings demonstrates great skill in what has always been considered an art of the West - scientific botanical illustration. These drawings, made for the surgeon-botanist Robert Wight, from 1826 to 1853, are remarkable for their accuracy, sense of colour and design.

Apart from their obsession with detail, the monochromatic paintings by Rudolf Stingel appeared to have little in common with the botanical drawings upstairs. In fact, the contrast was extreme, but above all, the activity of close observation linked the two. Stingel's art is all about painting; making reference to its processes, its history, and its criticisms. He has, in the past, employed different media to this end; he has made a rug of vibrant orange, which makes reference to colour-field painting, enormous silver insulation panels onto which the viewer was invited to draw, tackling the idea of the authorship of a work of art, and a wall-to-wall carpet of repeated decorative motifs, answering that perennial criticism of art; that it is always, and essentially, decorative.

In a seemingly critical development for this, his first UK exhibition at Inverleith House, the artist chose to exhibit for the first time, only paintings. Furthermore, as if to emphasise this move, the five monochromatic black and white self- portraits that were on display were all identical - in every practical respect. Each photo-realistic work was entitled Self-Portrait (After Sam), referring to the name of the photographer, Sam Samore, who took the image upon which they are based.

In a solo exhibition in New York, Stingel used his American gallerist Paula Cooper as the subject for a very large portrait, faithfully rendered after a photograph of her taken by the late Robert Mapplethorpe. Stingel has moved on from using art as subject to artist as subject. In an interview with the writer Victoria Miguel, conducted for the exhibition at his studio in New York, he states:

"All work is autobiographical, so, that's why I decided to just paint myself, instead of trying to come up with all kinds of wonderful ways to show myself...there's a big tradition of portraits, and lots of self-portraits too; each artist did it. This is very different than everything that I have done before. I'm nearly fifty now, and I turn around 180 degrees and show the other side...On top of that, it also tells a story. It's not just a classic self-portrait, with a neutral background, it's a pose; it's taken out of my life...I just want to go back to a more psychological platform, if you want; reconnecting because of my age and everything to my origins, somehow. It also seemed to me to be the bravest thing I could do".  

Rudolf Stingel

Rudolf Stingel: installation view, "Rudolf Stingel", Inverleith House, 2006.  

All work courtesy of the artist and Sadie Coles HQ, London.

For further information about the exhibitions or events, please ask at the reception desk or contact Inverleith House 

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