London

Gillian Carnegie

Cabinet

Could drab be the new fresh? You’d swear it’s possible after seeing Gillian Carnegie’s new paintings. Not only are most of them executed in a palette that ranges from dun to olive, but even her most unqualified whites—the sickly pale skin of the subject of her portrait Kalvin, 2004, for example—convey a feeling of grubby impurity. The essential drabness—what I am tempted to call, after Wordsworth, the “visionary dreariness”—of these paintings may be owed less to their color than to the peculiar touch, at once fleshy and mercurial, with which that color has been applied, and this unsettling touch becomes all the more evident when the color lightens.

In this show, at least, Carnegie is at her strongest when the paintings most approximate academic exercise. Surprisingly, given that she first drew attention for a series of (pictorially) impressive close-up views of her own behind, the more

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