Paul Sietsema @ MCA


The Paul Sietsema show that’s recently opened up at the MCA seems to be both a perfect representation of the current painting trends of the art world as well as a counterpoint to it as well. Confusing at first to consider but Sietsema’s carefully slow and dry works are a slow burn, something I have not felt nor seen in the recent past. His often begins by using photographs or objects, which speak to a ‘specific body of knowledge’ (newspapers, home improvement, contemporary art.) He then renders them beautifully in paint, allowing them to settle into both their representative object and as painting itself. His hyper realistic rendering point towards didacticism but reveal much more upon sitting with them. Using spare colors and compositions, Sietsema’s paintings are stoic and also at the same time point towards specificity. There is nostalgia at work, both in application and subject matter, I can literally feel the minute strokes of each brush mark carefully laid down and with it, I think of the significance of each gesture. Stepping back, I further contemplate Sietsema’s imagery. His topics and investigations are not unlike many contemporary painters. Topics like cultural production, history, media and representation all arise in his work. But for me what separates Sietsema’s approach from typical provincial painters or mixed media artists is that he point towards rather than becoming. The object is not channeled through its making but way of proximity to the original thing. One may momentarily mistake it with the original but as soon as it is understood as a painting there is a distinct separation between the two.  This allows the subjective practice of painting enough distance so that it may well be objective as the information at hand become conflated and lateralized. As if within the logic of the work, there exists its own environment, one that these areas of familiarity become fluid and ambiguous.


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