Catalogue Essay | TENDERISE | April 2019
Jack Trolove’s practice, spans 20 years of working with the body, as a political and poetic site. For many years he created articulate work using moving image, performance and collective practice, but he’s clearly found his home in painting which he refers to as his ‘first love’.
While the social and theoretical influences in Trolove’s work have long been weighty (inter generational trauma and healing, queer-trans feminisms, de-colonisation and critical whiteness studies) these days his work looks, and lands, more like poetry than politics. His works catch the viewer, initially engaging them at a sensory level. Poetry works because it opens spaces for ones own knowing to emerge. Good poetry does not fix a truth, dogmatically telling you a thing as political rhetoric does. Trolove’s visual poetry opens the reader to their own rhythm.
The paintings pull me into my own story – opening my pores so I can hear what has been silent. They remind me I’m more than my flesh.
Where Trolove’s previous explicitly political work, which I also loved, had an acidic power, it seems he’s been learning the efficacy of a more gentle touch. Without a doubt, these paintings are in part shameless celebrations of the viscosity of paint, colour and flesh, but it took me a while to realise, that’s just the hook. His decision to make often luscious, sometimes horrific, figurative paintings, is born from a deep commitment to champion space for a non-rational world. Making paintings ‘about feeling’ is his way of intercepting masculinity’s stakes in ‘knowing’. His is a practice of thinking through the body not about the body. For the artist, as with Spinoza, the mind is merely an idea of the body. He uses figurative painting to center embodied knowledge. To activate intuitive communication between bodies – using that live space between the body in the painting and the body of the viewer.
He makes paintings that remind us how quickly and potently we can feel.
Thick, unruly streaks of pigment play out larger than life size in front of the viewer, in the real-time way tactile paintings and performance do. Here, they sculpt thick second-skins for us to feel through. The old school face-recognition technology of ‘portraiture’, gives us a deceptively simple in-road. Yet to stop at the face and call it a portrait is to miss the work. Ultimately these objects are an invitation into abstraction and unraveling. As the artist explains, he’s not interested in the ‘traditions’ of portraiture, of finding a likeness to a sitter, rather he uses the mechanism of ‘portraiture’ precisely for its familiarity and baggage, to ease the viewers’ passage into a new space that is sentient. We are seduced through the sometimes delicious excess of camp colour, into something unsettling, disturbing. Or amazing. Always sentient.
It goes without saying he’s a brilliant, generous painter. His new works lunge between beautiful, unsettling and uplifting. Ultimately, I’ve decided they are about friction. They are materially, like the politics of the artist, layers dragged together, which revel in the agency of showing themselves ‘being made’. Layers which reveal the vibrant life between us.
“…Tenderise proves to be, on reflection, a show of considerable depth and relevance. In it Trolove has evolved as a painter of substance as well as a virtuoso manipulator of paint.”
Quote from Michael Dunn’s review in Art New Zealand magazine 2019