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This is the first significant publication on the work of British painter Neal Tait. This visually fascinating book takes ‘a studio approach’ to illustrate the range and focus of Tait’s paintings. Photographs of Tait’s archive collection of found imagery (including newspaper cuttings), sketchbook drawings, preparatory drawings and finished drawings are woven within the body of full colour reproductions of his paintings, allowing for lateral readings of the genesis and development of ideas alongside finished works. Initially, Tait’s output reflects a rather idiosyncratic narrative, harnessed to what might be broadly described as a ‘contemporary European sensibility’, but this publication reveals that Tait is in fact wrestling with a strong sense of painting’s tradition, something in-keeping with a painter’s painter.
This book includes the paintings which perhaps brought Tait’s work to wider appeal – the ghost-like heads, appearing as if x-rayed by generally tonal colours, emphasizing the relationship between the weight of the surface of a painting in relation to the presence of a sitter. And this cornerstone of negative presence is something that can be seen to recur or resurrect itself throughout the more recent open-ended picture making. Fragments of the body are often merged with their surroundings, abstracting them from their ‘home’ context in order that they might act as a signifier in the space of the ‘painting’ and, by so doing creating a tension between what we know the thing to be and what Tait’s emotional and psychological connection could be. Birds, a birdhouse, a television or a playground swing take on a more significant charge in a world that seems, oddly, in tension between a calm innocence and an anxious foreboding. And this is further emphasized by Tait’s exquisite colour sense and draughtsmanship - a child-like palette of warm and cold tones and bright energetic high-key colour (reminiscent of the Paris School), contained within a firm but delicate stylized line. Along with two intelligent and empathetic essays by Michael Bracewell and Jeremy Millar, this publication is more a catalogue of a practice - a practice which is about itself and the subject the medium eventually finds and commits to saying.
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Neal Tait was born in 1965 in Edinburgh and lives and works in London.
Tait creates drawings and paintings of alternative universes in which his figures and objects are part of a parallel visual system. He uses several narratives within one portrait or scene, using a dream-like aesthetic to convey the absurd, non-sensical logic of his work. Here, the everyday object is depicted next to the somnambulistic so that abstraction and beauty are met by figuration and disquiet.
He has exhibited in international group exhibitions such as Painting on the Move, Kunsthalle Basel, 2002: Direct Painting, Kunsthalle Mannheim, 2004 and Very Abstract and Hyper Figurative, Thomas Dane, London, 2007. Solo exhibitions include The Burnished Ramp, White Cube, London, 2003; Neal Tait, Sies + Höke Galerie, Dusseldorf, 2005 and Tambalamb, ACME, Los Angeles, 2007.