Jared Peters’ Just as it should be at the McIntosh Gallery.

mcg-homepage-mfa2014Surrealist of the bland unconscious

Car seats, toilets, bars of soap, sinks and industrial tiles. These are the dominant subjects of Jared Peters Just as it should be at the McIntosh Gallery. Toilet is indicative of the show as a whole. Muted in colour, geometrical but soft on line and sitting with slight unease in a boxy but not quite square canvas space. It’s a lot of not quite ball-in-a-box. Viewed from above, the toilet has only a subtle sense of depth. Like the sink in the painting beside it, the flattening wins out. With careful attention to the detail of floor tiles, it is also the decorative which dominates. This is only accented by the striking lack of any excretion in the toilet: just the twists of some paper rendered like the wrinkles of a shirt. While the clean/filth divide has been fairly overstated by anthropologists since at least Mary Douglas’ seminal, if simplistic, Purity and Danger, there is remarkably little of the latter in evidence. Instead, it’s a world so decontaminated that the only sense of life is the murkiness of its colour scheme.

It’s a world without filth. Even the deadness which this suggests indicates a deadness without rot, with no hint of the organic on display in any fashion. Vitality has petered out. The car seat – thrown off balance by a fragmented wheel, suspended against blue, a belt yanked across it to bisect and diminish the strong rectangular verticality of the composition – can’t be read as empty. It doesn’t suggest presence either, but indifference. If there was a person in the seat, they would be no different than the seat itself. This is clearly indicated by the manner in which Peters articulates the fabric of clothing in the painting directly across the room. In Lightswitch, the arm and hand are rendered in exaggerated rolls and wrinkles to the point that they nearly resemble a mummy. The hand points, rather than flicks, a light switch of an inflated size. It sits off centre, in what seems like a joke on the notion of cross purposes. Three walls intersect irrationally with the wall ornament jutting out in a nod to the limits of spatial depth. The whole composition owes a clear debt to Surrealism, in particular the largely forgotten Surrealist imitators that cropped up in anglo countries in the late 30s, stuck somewhere between Ernst and Hopper.

Peters’ small s, anti-septic surrealism is carried on in the other works, almost all of which consist of close cropped and, therefore, slightly alien visions of banal household or industrial appliances. These things are not presented as fetish objects. Their object quality is dull, so much so that the dulling of the canvas space seems to be the guiding principle of the compositions. Almost everything has the quality of a deflating balloon or the botched breast implants of a cancerous middle aged woman. The humdrummery is amplified by his penchant for offset geometry. This is intended to give a sense of unease. Sometimes it works. His grids contrasted with curves provide tension, but one which alters substantially when viewed up close. Most of his lines are surprisingly muted, rarely straight, often cracked; indicators of the illusion of order. One of his more interesting contrasts comes from his choice to paint reflective surfaces which also give way on closer inspection. His paint application is flat most of the time. In a few paintings, he builds up areas of rougher marks, sometimes black on black. These gestures seem deliberately crippled. However, moving away again, all of these features add up to something that verges on the decorative. This is particularly the case with Toilet. His obsession with mass produced tiles, scuff marks, minimal hushed colour schemes and softened lines congeals to give the works a sort of low collective grumble.

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