Iain Hetherington: Diversified Cultural Workers (3 stars)

Iain Hetherington

Mary Mary, Glasgow, until Sat 28 Jun


Using a combination of abstract and realist painting techniques, Iain Hetherington’s new exhibition presents an intriguing twist on the idea of the painted portrait. These new works build on themes explored in paintings he exhibited last year: large-scale works depicting groups of young men wearing Burberry baseball caps enacting ‘revolutionary’ activities, apparently drawn from art historical sources. The figures’ faces were completely abstracted: constructed from dabs of rich, bright, often eye-popping colour with only their headgear depicted realistically.

The works in Hetherington’s new exhibition each focus upon a single figure, rendered in a traditional portrait format. While Hetherington has maintained his abstract/realist style of depiction, the baseball caps now feature the insignia of the New York Yankees and his subjects sport gold chains and the odd Swarovski crystal. The reasoning behind this switch to hip hop culture is unclear, although, as before, this is a style of streetwear stereotypically sported by disaffected young men. An element of menace can be located in the paintings; the figures often appear to emerge out of the dark, while in one painting the subject’s head appears to be on fire.

Although ‘Glass of Absinthe’ (based on a 1914 sculpture by Picasso of the same name) sits oddly alongside the rest of the show, it is perhaps the painting which best expresses the range of themes Hetherington attempts to explore. While it may be debatable whether these paintings truly articulate Hetherington’s ideas, they represent an interesting expansion on his theme.

Diversified Cultural Works

  • 3 stars

A series of 'portraits' by the upcoming painter Iain Hetherington, depicting characters whose baseball caps and goldie looking chains connote a disaffected and seemingly menacing hip hop culture, with all of its attendant sexist, violent baggage.

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