In a detached manner, alone in the studio, Stuart Cumberland begins painting by dropping his trousers and pants to his ankles and howling the names of his forebears. Wielding a brush loaded with juicily coloured dripping paint he doesn’t consider himself to be any different to the suburban so-called sexual deviants who install a wet room for sex and pissing in the second bedroom of the house – the painter and art world in all of their sophistication call it the studio. Freud defined most of the above as sublimation.
Suitably, for his second solo show at The Approach, Cumberland has taken as point of departure the celebrated Freudian “Fort/Da” episode. Freud describes and interprets a game his eighteen-month old grandson repeatedly played in which he would throw a cotton reel, attached by string, out of sight exclaiming with pleasure ‘fort!’ (gone). Pulling the reel back using the string, he would then announce with satisfaction ‘da!’ (there). Freud was interested in the child’s enjoyment of language and control, and related it to the relative lack of control he would have regarding the presence of his mother.
In Cumberland’s work parts of the body, most notably the arm, hand and breast, are painted in black cartoon line and as such are ‘da’ – there/present. The gratifying process of obliterating large areas of the paintings then announces ‘fort’ – gone/absent – and manifests a personally ideal level of control less achievable in other daily regards – such as with desirable company. In somewhat of a contradiction, the glaze-like build up of colour of this supposed ‘fort’, gone/absent part itself has enormous presence. The speed and obvious enjoyment with which the paintings are made readily translates as a form of release that offers the audience viewing and looking as pleasure, which aims to instill a sense of satisfaction equivalent to the ‘da’ (there) of the grandson.
Stuart Cumberland was born in England in 1970 and lives and works in London. Recent solo exhibitions include: Congratulations, The Approach, London (2007); Kate MacGarry, London (2006 and 2003). Group shows include The Way We Work Now, Camden Arts Centre, London (2006); 60th Anniversary Show, curated by Des Hughes, Gimpel Fils, London (2006); Dirty Pictures, The Approach, London, (2003); Saatchi Gallery Bursaries 1999–2001, 30 Underwood Street, London (2001); Home & Away, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York (1998)
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