Looking at Terra Preta last evening I wondered if Dermot Punnett spent any time as a youngster watching the X Files on television, for the strange and crazy theories of extra terrestrials seem to be played out in this painting with its mysterious tangled undergrowth populated by free floating geometric forms. The artist talks of entropy and there is a strong whiff of tension in the fetid air of this jungle environs in which objects are coalescing and decaying…though when I check up on terra preta I realise that this may be amazonian rain forest and it is rotting, manmade vegetation rather than, say, the Florida Keys. Whatever is going on here it is a narrative that is cut across with a knowing take on contemporary painting and a steady, consistent painterly intelligence that is at work.
Conduit and Arawak are pictures cut from the same cloth. In the latter the light is skillfully handled and we are emerging into possibly a clearing though again I cant help imagining that I’m just ahead of Mulder and Scully or maybe young Elliot about to discover that this light is that of a spaceship that has crash landed just out of view. Once again the same tropes are deployed, the geometries and the bisecting lines that carve the space open and just as quickly bind it up again, and those curious little flecks of paint just to remind us that this is above all else a painting.
Smoker is a more enigmatic picture…the billowing clouds are handled well and I see a suggestion of a bunny staring out of the rectangle to the right…though this maybe ‘very like a whale’ as Polonius would have it in Hamlet. Whatever, the space frame once more revolves around and through the gases weaving the rectangular space into something altogether more curious and fascinating.
There is a fair bit more on offer here…the warmth of the light in Murmuration Gold and the deftness of handling in Harness. Indeed for us painters it’s this lightness of touch, the sense that these pictures have not been overcooked and yet have depth and character in spades, that makes Before The Past And Beyond The Future one of the strongest shows to have been mounted at the Tarpey.