In some sense, making a painting or a poem is the process of imposing the imagination on the world - in Wallace Stevens’s words, ‘the imagination pressing back against the pressure of reality’. These paintings are explorations of things, situations and stories in which real, imagined and wished-for significance are on equal terms.
They celebrate the way the fanciful and the far-fetched can have an unexpected resonance, a surprising poignancy, allowing a kind of honesty that is normally inhibited by the need to explain oneself. A portrait, evocatively named, seen once and once only in the shadows of an old museum ; an inventory fragment on a clay tablet, transformed - or so it seems - by time and the patina of an ancient language; one hundred and fifty-three letters – now tracery on a sheet of blotting paper; an imagined island, clicked into being on a laptop. Here, the imagination does not disguise, still less deceive, but filters experience and objects through an altered light, letting us see their afterglow or remanence. More than that, the imagination in this mode is an intervention in the world that we can perform everywhere and at all times, giving us agency within a rare and precious privacy.
Claire Kerr's works are born from a strong sense of contemporary realism, and their content seems to rise from the wooden panels they are painted on. With a deep acknowledgment to art history and vernacular imagery, her work also reveals a strong observation of the everyday. Her treatment of her subjects is extraordinary. The paintings are miniature in scale and deliberately photographic in technique. Nevertheless, the painted surface is only the beginning of each painting's conceptual investigation of its subject-matter and each work transcends its surface to become something much greater than the sum of its parts.
He returns to the paintings. They impose a certain way of looking, of standing. They have a forensic obsession with detail - obsession but also, he cannot help but think, faith in detail. Given their size - small enough to carry on a single palm - the paintings oblige him to stand closer than he has ever stood before in front of an oil painting. His face is as close to its skin as to a lover's neck. Like a double tide, an intimate distance opens between him and the pictures. The admirable and manic realism of the paintings astonishes and disassociates him from the recorded object. It is as if the painting is insisting that it is a copy. The paintings are often a copy of yet another copy. The photographic obsession with realism makes these 'copies' hyper authentic. They are replicas that cannot be easily duplicated. And the unusually small scale—he imagines one of them sliding into his jacket’s outer pocket—suggests value. They are miniatures and the miniature has contradictory associations in our minds: it is both precious and a replica, authentic yet remains a likeness. Hisham Matar