The artist’s overarching practice is witnessed when his diverse works are seen in concert, says Francis McWhannell.
The work of Oliver Perkins is the product of voracious looking, playful experimentation, and rigorous editing. His sources are diverse. He mines the histories of art, architecture, and design – now playing on the more restrained monochrome paintings of Robert Ryman, now the tubular balcony rails of 1990s apartment buildings in Alicante, Spain (until recently the artist’s home). His chosen media are similarly eclectic, encompassing not only traditional painting materials, such as canvas and rabbit-skin glue, but also more everyday substances, such as wood dowelling and enamel house paints. His works are objects as much as images, drawing attention not only to their own seductive materiality, but also to the sensual qualities of the myriad painted objects that surround us. Considered individually, his works – whether strident or subtle in their colouration, robust or fragile in their physicality – tend to appear stable and self-contained. Seen in concert, however, it becomes apparent that they are nodes in a complex and vital system that is the artist’s overarching practice. Each painting derives from and generates another. The connections between works are often subtle, the shifts incremental. The same basic ingredients are redeployed to startlingly different effect. Three pieces of dowelling, for instance, may be used to suggest a top-heavy architrave form, the stretcher of a painting, or a fattened sketch of a building. Immaculately crafted and immediately lovely, Perkins’ paintings are essays in the rich potential latent in the outwardly simple.
1, 2 and 3. Untitled works by Oliver Perkins. Photography by Sam Hartnett, courtesy of the artist and Hopkinson Mossman. 3