London based artist Tony Hull’s latest series of oil on canvas are playful studies on contemporary iconography and value systems within the context of 16th century Flemish masterpieces. Layers upon layers of paint push Hull’s subjects—all children—further into contextual oblivion.  We struggle to comprehend the 16th century “originals” from Hull’s contemporary applications. A confused melancholy permeates Hull’s work, and we approach the altered reference of Art History past as one approaches a graffitied street sign. An image that we have collectively grown to equate with a definitive function or meaning has been tampered with.

We are initially only conscious of what has been altered, falsely believing that we have full understanding of the image’s “original” intention.  To stop. To yield.  Not to loiter. To sit still. Hull’s technique is perfectly suited to the task of stylistic mimicry. His irreverent alteration of centuries old masterpieces is tempered in his reverent, bordering on religious, technique. Centuries collide, and the dust clouds of school room stuffiness that has come to surround the old masters dissipates. They no longer seem so distant. Colors that imply brevity streak across the traditionally somber colors of our fondly remembered Flemish fathers; oil drips sloppily down the canvas and a staccato of brush strokes and scratches almost etch each child into their traditional pose and starched, dated clothing. A bright streak of blue.  Of red. A familiar wallpaper print. A dangling filtered cigarette and thick framed glasses (quintessential hipster gear). Batman’s mask. There is a place for all, but it’s hard to put your finger exactly where that place might be or in what alternate universe it may reside.

Hull must have spent a lot of time literally watching the paint dry, waiting with bated breath for the next application.  And the next.  All while keeping the referential integrity of the “originals” and without tipping the scales too heavily in the favor of one time, space or moment.

Natalie Fasano 2011

for PhotoSynth Project New York