Sideswipe: painters Rob McLeod and Bastian Boersig. An essay by Lorene Taurerewa

Robert McLeod employs a process of constant evaluation and re-evaluation of his forms and shapes, constantly redrawing and reapplying layers of oil paint and enamel as he shapes and reshapes figures and scenes cut from plywood. These cut-outs can be hung on walls or displayed as free-standing installations or moved and arranged into different groups and different gestures. 

His sculptural paintings on shaped plywood are populated by characters from television, movies and comic strips. Innocent childhood heroes, including Mickey and Minnie mouse, along with images from the artist’s own private life, are distorted and contorted to suggest a darker and more sinister world of characters. They form narratives that defy the idea of the everyday, questioning individual, political, cultural and social norms, while leaning toward darker themes that make light of taboo subject matter.

His subject matter is often abject and scatological, confrontational, with an edge of defiance and rebellion. In many of his paintings, groups of figures like a family are bound together tightly. They are not a normal family but misfits and aliens, nonconformist, eccentric, maverick and individual. Ironically, they stress the importance of individualism, in a world of conformity.

Bastian Börsig paints from his domestic environment and includes familiar and homely items, pots and pans, rooms, household furniture, and children. His process entails painting and drawing with charcoal, oil paint and varnish onto canvas in a vigorous semi-abstract manner.

Along with bold mark-making and freely applied paint, the colors he uses will sometimes mimic a child’s world; with sugary pastel pinks, yellows and blues. There are references to children and domesticity, but also scenes of discord and disruption. As every parent knows, the constant focus on watching another human being  - a child - mixes feelings of wonder, joy, and hilarity, with worry and fear.

These paintings maybe reflect such a situation, when sharp edges of objects, and parts of a child’s body - a hand, a leg, a head - emerge or disappear into and out of various places on the canvas. A baby’s backside sticks out of a broken wardrobe door; a small plump, pink hand grips a tin can with an open, razor-sharp lid.

The spaces in these paintings are often indeterminate in depth, and can be dimensionally disorientating; you don’t know which way is up or down. The paintings also suggest a gravitation-free space, a feeling of weightlessness: with some objects, like a hair brush, floating in space. It’s a topsy-turvy world; perhaps an adult’s experience of how a child perceives the world, from an ever-moving vantage point.

Both artists make artwork that reflects their understanding and resolution of chaos and disorder within their worlds. For McLeod the abject and scatological references act as a kind of rebellion, a back-lash about individual feelings in a world of ever tightening social rules and regulations. For Börsig, the domestic realm is also fraught with surprises and dangers, like a microcosm of a bigger world, where one must constantly be on one’s guard. These artists each offer, in their own way, a view of aspects of “our” fears; and so their paintings provide a commentary on the space where social and personal overlap.

Lorene Taurerewa

September 2018