Phillip McCrum

German Paintings

Oil on canvas — 2001

The paintings in this series were created ouf of a residency in Hamburg, as part of the Welbekannt eV art society.

“Phil McCrum’s green paintings in this exhibition come out of a Hamburg artist residency from a few years ago. These paintings, read as a whole, operate to create a chain of associations. While subjecting himself to language tapes, McCrum began to pull the absurdities of picking up a new language into recollections and observations on how children undergo the construction of subjectivity via learning, especially via language development. The pictures illustrate a humorous dislocation from the German language, again as a child might make associations between what is seen and heard. The use of forms and text in these paintings underlines the auslanderisch nature of language’s categorization and learning of such, which forces upon subjectivity as much as constructs a vision of the world. This dislocation (and bizarre, intuitive matching) of form and text, again estranging as much as familiarizing one with the world, is also here associated with human desire and violence, whether individual or institutionalized. […] Not simply representing conditions of the Oedipal complex, such as its appearance in Are You Krank Mutter, or acts of childish desire and violence, McCrum builds a chalkboard of relations between the development and simultaneous estrangement of subjectivity, the ‘babble’ of language, and how these are not only related to human desire, but are acted upon and act upon such.

McCrum thus evokes the process of assimilating information (in the child firstly, but not lastly), and how power structures, the construction of history, etiquette, and proper conduct to others and the rules of learning are intermingled whether in the school curriculum or via the desire for a father-figure first experienced in childhood and repeated throughout development into adulthood. These interrelated fields might also be possible to experience when being confronted by a new situation, a new culture, a new lagnauge – where a confrontation with the great Other can stonish and knock down walls constructed that had held together the cathedral of meaning and familiarity known as subjectivity. What congeals human relation is the maintaining of these walls, as they are denoted, we may argue, by the (earlier identified) everyday authority. McCrum doesn’t offer up a revolt to this authority, but depicts it indiscreetly for the audience within his crudely capricious forms.”

— Séamus Kealy, Everyday Every Other Day exhibition essay