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Contemporary Art, Neo-Expressive & Neo-Figurative Painting

The 1990s saw a revival of neo-expressive and neo-figurative painting. Its exponents work in tune with tradition and with their attention focused on the expressive opportunities inherent in the medium of painting as such. That is to say, basic painterly questions are, once again, on the agenda, strongly emphasising the relation between the picture plane and the picture space, figuration and abstraction, form and colour, writing and gesture.
 
Tal R (b. 1967), Jonathan Meese (b. 1970), and Peter Linde Busk (b. 1973) all work within this new approach to painting. Their respective bodies of work are characterised by a tangible and direct approach to the act of painting, in which the brushstrokes indicate a working method which is intuitive as well as diligent with minute attention to detail. The manner and style of these three artists can sometimes be pastose and fierce, while usually kept in check by means of classic and/or patterned compositions together with a startling technical precision.  
 
It is often said that contemporary painting has entered a 'post-conceptual' phase. This means, in the main, that there are intentional references to numerous stylistic features and ideas about art. At the same time, contemporary painting often uses motifs and topics from popular culture. Finally, the demand for tangible authenticity often requires other types of method and material than those we normally tend to associate with painting, such as photography, quotations, collage, or various forms of printmaking techniques.
 
By extending the form and content of the medium in this way, contemporary art points to social and ideological themes while also raising a number of questions on identity and the place of the individual in the world.
 
In other words, contemporary painting places itself in an intentionally ambiguous position between historical styles and combinations of material as well as between 'good' and 'bad' taste. This also implies that the role of the artist becomes correspondingly ambiguous and changeable. Consequently, with regard to Tal R, Jonathan Meese and Peter Linde Busk, we often perceive considerable humour and existential pathos unfolding concurrently.
 
Tal R's painting is colourful and full of rebellious and investigative energy which is partly due to the fact that it exists in the cross field between expressive banality and a mysteriously dreamlike depth – usually based on a very tangible approach to life. In the case of Jonathan Meese, and quite unrestrainedly, art takes on the character of a manifesto. The fact that artistic expressions such as these seemingly contain 'childish' features, is likely due to a feeling of social imbalance. And the lesson seems to be that this is precisely why we should listen to the truths hidden behind the clown's mask – because painting itself is never naïve.
 
Peter Linde Busk's business is not, in the same way, to break down accepted norms. Nonetheless, his painterly oeuvre is characterised by a great willingness to take risks and by doubts, aptly expressed in the disquieting atmosphere of his works. The alteration between an impeccable figurative representation and a sketch-like appearance allows the basic premise of the picture to stand out while also sharing with us a personal view.