Tate Britain’s exhibition looks at five contemporary artists who have each developed their own distinctive approach to painting. In these extracts from the exhibition catalogue, they talk about how they work

Tomma Abts Jeels 2012
Tomma Abts
Jeels 2012

Tomma Abts

‘[My canvases are always the same size.] At some point I decided on that size. It felt right. I think it relates to the size of a head space – a portrait-type space. The vertical format holds the space tight. A landscape format would let the tension flow out on the sides. […]  I don’t consider [my paintings to be] abstract, because I’m working from a somewhat indistinct and hazy notion towards a very specific and concrete image. I am constructing an image from nothing and try to define it very clearly, so it becomes legible. At the same time I want it to be as open as possible.’

Catherine Story Lovelock (I) 2010
Catherine Story
Lovelock (I) 2010


Catherine Story

‘When I was a teenager I was obsessed with black and white films, but it wasn’t until 2008 that I began to find ways to connect this interest to my work. [Director Frederico] Fellini’s camera inspired the shape in Lovelock (I) 2010, and reading about him led to his hero, Charlie Chaplin, and two years of studying silent cinema. The shape seems to contain many cinematic themes (cactus, heart, key, castle, clown, hero, precipice etc) but the title is the town in Nevada where Edna Purviance, Chaplin’s first leading lady, was born. […] Picasso and Braque saw some of the first moving images in Paris, and it’s clear that cinema played a part in the development of cubism. My camera paintings were homages to these two inventions, and their inventors, and I spent a lot of time thinking about how the revolutions that they led revolved on opposite sides of the world, sometimes in opposite directions.’

Gillian Carnegie Prince 2011–12 showing a monochromatic painting of a cat on a staircase
Gillian Carnegie
Prince 2011–12

Gillian Carnegie

‘I have never felt the need to feel informed about the experience of seeing a painting in order that I understand it. Being informed gets in the way of understanding my own work. I’d like to think someone would still want to look at a painting rather than inform themselves about it beforehand.’

Simon Ling Untitled 2012
Simon Ling
Untitled 2012

Simon Ling

‘I don’t actively seek out a subject as such, but I am drawn to the things in my immediate surroundings. The subject only makes itself clear once the work starts. It’s me, the things I am looking at and the paint, and between these the subject hangs suspended. At the moment I am painting around my studio near Old Street in east London. I feel the city is an organism with its own life. What I am attracted by are certain arrangements and situations. My primary concern when I am making the paintings is the emotional relationship to the visual world, accessed and described through a process of intense scrutiny, not only to emphasise what an object looks like, or its material qualities, but the experience it engenders and an emotional equivalence for its material reality.’

Lucy McKenzie Quodlibet XXII (Nazism) 2012
Lucy McKenzie
Quodlibet XXII (Nazism) 2012

Lucy McKenzie

Quodlibet when referring to visual art translates as “as it falls” and is a still life containing no, or very few, natural objects such as fruit. It is instead a trompe l’oeil of objects that would be found on a desk – paper, pens, books, reading glasses, playing cards etc just lying around. [For these paintings I decided to use] trompe l’oeil for several reasons. Firstly, conceptually I like painting that has an effect which has been created systematically and that uses techniques from the commercial sphere for very specific results. Secondly, this technique means the work can be enjoyed on several levels; many people who are not concerned with the concept might like the way it is made because the illusion surprises them (and because it ticks boxes about virtuosity and craft). […] Quodlibets are a flexible form to talk about whatever you like in a manner that emphatically shows you are intentional because you spent so long meticulously painting them.’

The exhibition catalogue ‘Painting Now: Five Contemporary Artists’ is available to purchase from the Tate Online Shop

Painting Now: Five Contemporary Artists is on display at Tate Britain from 12 November to 9 February 2014