Max Brand and Joanne Robertson: Poppies
Great art, or is it pants?
The use of pants in art can't fail to get a reaction. Daubed with brown paint and draped over the top of Joanne Robertson's canvas, they leave one half-tempted to snigger, half-repulsed. A difficult abstract painting is a very different thing from a difficult abstract painting with added pants.
This show, the first collaboration between Manchester-born Robertson (whose first degree is from GSA) and Brand, who is German, keeps wrong-footing the audience like that. Something apparently earnest is offset by a pair of knickers; a funky floor in kindergarten colours suddenly reveals a leering face; rails of clothing turn into sculptures, but are they statements about the fashion industry or just another way of using colour? One can only guess.
Individual works by both artists blend together to make a single gallery-size installation. Robertson's abstract painting style is actually quite different from Brand's, which references everything from cave paintings to doodles and cartoons, but their approach - the spontaneity, the primary colours - is complimentary.
They certainly seems to have had fun: they have painted on the floor, the wall, the windows. Brand also paints on sheets and a duvet cover. There are overtones of a child confined to their bedroom as punishment who takes their revenge with poster paints and felt pens.
They have made music together too, unstructured, discordant, piped out of speakers inside wire cages decorated with supermarket poly bags.
But it's a party to which the rest of us aren't invited. There's nothing to help us understand what we're seeing, even though GoMA, when I visited, was busy with casual Sunday afternoon browsers. This is art which has thrown away the rule book, and with it any sense of composition, order, balance, signposts for the viewer. They've had a good time. Now we're meant to take it seriously and call it art.
GoMA, until Sun 11 Jun 2017