November 26 - December 30





Thinking about the paintings of Raoul Dufy – and despite their popularity with some collectors his paintings are, it has to be admitted, not that much thought about nowadays – is to think of a past age that is often thought of as frivolous. It is summertime, it is the 1920s, we are bathed in the bright sparkling light of the South of France; Dufy’s paintings celebrate a feeling for light and elegant luxury, for spare time and a certain good taste. His subjects encompass a life of ease: promenades, beach scenes and lazy frolicking in a warm sea; views of holiday mansions and views through their balconied windows; scenes of studio life in repose and of nudes holding sea shells; the many and varied charms attendant on the race course. Added to this is the feeling that Dufy’s paintings are seemingly easily won – their textures are thin and the painted gestures are light and calligraphic – and are the perfect corollary for his subject matter, as well as being suggestive of a man that never worked but instead just enjoyed himself.

Seen in this respect Dufy’s paintings seem to be the exact antithesis of Keith Coventry’s latest body of work, which are faithful transcriptions in black paint of a selection of Dufy’s paintings. Where Dufy is all lightness and colour, Coventry’s installation summons up the misery of low wattage lighting and his paintings are suffused with darkness. Where Dufy’s paintings are easy to like and understand, Coventry’s are difficult to see. Where Dufy’s paintings are light in touch, Coventry’s revel in a heavily impastoed and worked surface. Where Dufy paints during a never ending lunchtime, it is difficult to tell what time of day Coventry is depicting. But then Coventry is not depicting a state of being in the way that Dufy is thought to have done. At first glance Coventry’s paintings even reject figuration – the darknesses of the black impasto oblongs are contained within gessoed white slip mounts and frames whose glazing repels vision. Grouped on an isolated wall painted red, and standing on a platform, Coventry has almost created an ersatz Constructivist installation.

With these works Coventry is continuing an investigation that has, over the last 12 or more years, constructed a matrix of debased ideals and histories in which sink housing estates and crack dens are joined with the lofty vision of International Modernism; where the football hooligan is twined with the exploits of classical Greek heroes; where the high street kebab shop becomes the haunt of the Gods of Greek mythology; where the signs of a long-redundant British establishment finds itself transformed into pure whiteness. Here the work of an artist who trained his eyes to look away from ugliness, and whose wartime paintings do not even hint at what has befallen the world, has been rendered by Coventry as if as black as Malevich’s Black Square. In one other sense Coventry is also reclaiming Dufy’s seriousness as an artist, freeing him from the damaging associations of being just a painter of lifestyle. Towards the end of his life Dufy admitted that he was more and more obsessed with darkness, with painting black. Coventry has taken him at his word, and in doing so has dispensed with frivolity and provided in its place a construction of misery that exists on the other side of the vision of a modernist hope. Andrew Wilson, November 2004

Recently re-located from New York to their new home in London’s East End, ROVE can be found at 33-34 Hoxton Square, in a building that will soon be the location for architect Zaha Hadid’s first UK based project. During this re-development ROVE will be located on Britannia Street WC1 in a space renovated by the acclaimed artist and architect Vito Acconci, and located just opposite the recently opened Gagosian Gallery.

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