Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Painting Today

Almost impossible to get hold of following its publication in 2009, the 2010 second edition of Tony Godfrey's Painting Today may sell out just as quickly. It's certainly hard to resist, and with over 280 painters featured and almost 500 illustrations it may just satisfy those who have exhausted the pages of Phaidon's other seminal 'new painting' book Vitamin P. It's pretty impressive really, and a single author's take on things will always have a more idiosynchratic feel to it than, say, the collective 'multiple author' approach that Vitamin P took. There is one glaring omission from Painting Today- not featuring Richard Hamilton is a shocking oversight, particularly as David Hockney and Bridget Riley are mentioned. Interestingly also, the chapter on 'Neo Expressionism' (which was really Godfrey's forte back in the 80s) has completely air-brushed Sandro Chia out of the picture, which is also a mistake I think. The author obviously has a few personal favourites as well, the most surprising perhaps being Stuart Pearson Wright who actually opens the first main chapter and re-appears twice more throughout the book, which seems to overstate his importance more than a little I'd say. There are some really weird bits, like telling us that the seductive nature of Sarah Morris's work is heightened by the fact that she sometimes also paints high heeled shoes (?!!!) and also the inclusion of Chuck Close in the 'Post Feminism' chapter seems downright bizarre.

Surprising omissions are perhaps Dexter Dalwood and Andrew Grassie. But there are some great resurrections as well- Maria Lassnig looks in her proper place, as does Alice Neel. Ireland (Northern) is represented by the predictable Mark Francis (unfortunately the bio at the back has him hailing from 'Newtowark' ?) but a fantastic image of Elizabeth Magill's is a great inclusion. At a push you could also say that Ireland gets another shout through the inclusion of Alexis Harding.
Two other things- there's one whole chapter devoted to 'Dresden and Leipzig' which really just shows off again Godfrey's penchant for Neo Expressionist type painting, and there's far too much 'pseudo Pop' Chinese contemporary painting. But over-all, as I said, it's a hard-to-resist book.