Old School celebrates a re-engagement with Old Master modes of representation, which might be said to be a recent phenomenon in contemporary art. Beyond ironic appropriation, a new school of artists look to the past and revel in the sophisticated pleasures of anachronism, swerving between period styles and details with gay abandon.
Affinities continually emphasise differences in a dialogue between old and new. By adopting the iconographies, graphic rhythms and techniques of Lucas Cranach, John Currin’s paintings from the mid to late nineties graft a historical complexity and painterly panache to the provocatively unnatural female bodies that feature in his paintings. Artists such as Currin, Wall and Smith consciously make use of classic compositions of genre, history and landscape painting so that their images recall and summon the spirits of countless past artworks whilst they mine the gap between current sensibilities and those of previous times. This observance of different moments of time within a single image is explored to the hilt in Hilary Harkness’ paintings, which conflate episodes from history with a very contemporary kinkiness, and in the works of Richard Wathen whose portraits are chilling distillations of all of a person’s ages into one.