When one first sees a painting by Richard Moon one is not so much perturbed by the deformities and uneasiness within the image, but by a nasty feeling that you as the viewer are complicit in creating these disturbing qualities. For all that Moon’s paintings take photography as their subject they are decidedly not photorealistic - an important distinction, and one which opens up a space within the painting to question whether the disturbing qualities lie in the source imagery or within the act of representation.
Ambiguity abounds throughout these works. Is the boy in Icarus involved in a moment of play with a new toy or the result of a bizarre experiment? And does the answer to that question lie in the original image or in the act of repainting by the artist? The chosen title for the show, Plastic Time, we are told, refers to the term “plastic rhyme” used by Picasso to describe visual similarities or resonances between objects. A concept which helps us unravel some of the associations between the reaffirming and the disturbing objects of Moon’s work.
These questions are posed by Moon with great tenderness and sensitivity. One is forced to sympathise the anxiety present in his work Fidget, a term which is reinforced by the tactile associations one makes with the unnaturally curved fingers of the sitter. Kink, similarly produces a sort of breathlessness as we consider the blocked pipe leading to the child’s mask whilst also considering the darker connotations of both masks and “kink” when read next to the image of a child.
As well as playing visual games with us there is a serious intellectual point within Moon’s work. In my eyes this is about the relationship between the dreadful and the desirable. This seems, in a sentence to rest on a tenant concerning the history of morals that: “All good things were once bad things; every original sin becomes an original virtue”. Behind each innocent image is the history of how it was once not so innocent; a dictum that may well have had it’s origins in the experience of art. Beauty, in this respect, is not a pure and simple thing but comes from a renunciation of the things that were once feared. It is no surprise then that Moon takes as his subjects to be by-and-large the young and the elderly. It is by exploring these subjects of vulnerability that the tropes of Moon’s paintings become most powerful.
-- Mike Tuck
All images courtesy Madder 139
Images: Richard Moon, Kink, 2010, Oil on Canvas; Richard Moon, Miss Daguerrotype, 2011, Oil on Canvas