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Posted on May 29, 2016
Hugh Mendes’ paintings are images not of people, but of people in the act of being remembered. His work’s re-enactment of memory is there in the tension between precision (the careful transcription of the photographic source) and fuzziness (the lines of text, reduced to just-illegible lines of dark grey). What looks painstakingly precise is continually tempered with a painterliness that stands for uncertainty: the slightly fogged text is like that seen in a dream, a hazy mesh of strips that never quite coalesces into writing. Implied in this approach is a yearning held at bay by an absence of complete knowledge, an attempt to communicate in a language you haven’t quite mastered. In Mendes’ image of art critic and artist Tom Lubbock, the act of translating the photographed face into paint replicates the intense scrutiny of the one left behind, like a loved picture in a locket, as well as reflecting Lubbock’s own penetrating analysis of paintings in his writing. In this sense, Mendes’ Obituaries are suffused with the hidden presence of the artist himself, gazing, as though remembering, at the image on the studio wall, while it imperceptibly deletes itself before his very eyes. Mendes’ image of Lubbock is a testament of something having been seen. The act of seeing creates an immortality, of sorts. This paper was here, looking like this. The light fell like this.