Tala Madani Chalk Mark
Pilar Corrias Savile Row, London 8 July – 8 September
Chalk Mark represents – marks – a graduation of sorts from the chocolatey brown smears and splatters with which the artist shapes despairing and beshitted figures – often women – and the ghostly producers of all this e uent – babies and young children. This is the second of two consecutive exhibitions of Madani’s paintings at Pilar Corrias (the first, Skid Mark, was staged at the gallery’s longtime Fitzrovia address; Chalk Mark inaugurates an airy new space in Mayfair). Here the visitor finds a palette of marginally lighter tones across 15 mediumto largescale works, as well as the recurring figure of a saluting uniformed man beaming out at the world as though from a recruitment poster. Many of the moods and themes that are hallmarks of Madani’s work – exhausted befuddlement, priapism, deadpan, pitchdark explorations of the overlap between procreation and digestion – remain central to this exhibition, though as the shift in titles from faecal marks to instructive chalk marks suggests, there is also an expanding interest in how children learn, both formally and through observation and imitation.
The most prominent works, physically and conceptually, are three ‘blackboard’ paintings: white ‘chalk’ lines drawn quickly across green ‘slate’ backgrounds, with previous eorts visible in the smears – now white – of erasure and redrawing. In one, titled Blackboard (Further Education) (2021), a doctor operates on the coiled intestines of a stick-figure human; a world globe sits atop a table poised for use; a naked hairless man lies prone on the floor, his gaping mouth receiving a line of miniature figures who climb in and then ‘graduate’ from between his buttocks, clad now in black gowns and mortarboards. Lying alongside the man is a child undergoing the same, hapless experience, but presented with a more sketchy, perhaps childish perspective: in contrast to the curves and details with which the man’s anatomy has been rendered, the child is all stick-figure limbs and a scratch of hair; instead of gowned graduates, he farts exclamation points and question marks. Whether bodily function, developmental stage or classroom learning, this process is clearly inevitable and often unpleasant. Barely visible in an upper corner of this work is where it all begins: the erased outlines of two lumpen figures in bed.
It’s not all sex, shit, violence, death – there’s humour too, of the dark, survival sort, to be found in the fraught, beleaguering intimacy of life, and it is here that Madani consistently makes herself at home. David Terrien