"Whittle's art is mongrel in nature. He creates a perverse cartography of the mind. His paintings and drawings are reminiscent of a punch-up between Martin Kippenberger, Sean Landers, George Condo and Magritte's 'vache' paintings."
The title 'I Against I', as Whittle puts it, "suggests an internal dispute or disagreement, or the sandwiching of different selves". Accordingly, 'I Against I' is two consecutive exhibitions of different bodies of new work. Whittle considers the legacies of romanticism and modernism in a world filled with disposable images and objects, and creates work that resists ready interpretation at every turn.
The first part of 'I Against I' presents an irregular plywood structure that zig-zags around the gallery, recalling the radical, angular aesthetics of early modernism. The structure has been specially designed by one of the architects of the Royal Festival Hall, the artist's grandfather Jack Whittle. Such figures helped give shape to a vision of a new world in which modern art and design could transform life for the better. When gaining entry into this room-in-a-room, we find it packed with Whittle's paintings. Each painting is crammed with multiple layers of imagery and patterns. Each offers a surfeit of saturated colours - and often strident clashes between them, and each teeters on the brink of beauty and banality. As the artist remarks, "I overload each space, and always present 'too much'. Different media across two dimensions and three jostle for attention, as well as different colours, different forms and types of marks, and different themes and genres. But my work has a coherence - it creates alternative kinds of spaces - spaces both behind each picture plane, and inside the gallery walls."
In the second part of the exhibition, the artist imagines himself as the quintessentially romantic painter, trying to capture the sublime immensity of the North Sea at first hand - with characteristically absurd results.
You can watch an interview with Thomas Whittle here;
This was filmed for 11 for 2011, a pilot programme of artists films featuring emerging and established contemporary artists in the North East gaining National and International recognition.