A hangover to celebrate

Wilhelm Sasnal, Photophobia (2007)

A new year and a new resolve to write about art (and yes, there are plenty of other resolutions I should be making and maybe I will, but I promise not to talk about them here; it’s for the best). And when better than New Year’s Day to think about what a hangover looks like? Wilhelm Sasnal’s Photophobia (on show at the Whitechapel Gallery until, ooh, later on today) isn’t intended as the abstract painting it initially appears to be. Rather, it’s an attempt to record that first blast of light that invades your consciousness when waking with a bad hangover. The light in the painting is intense and beautiful but its beauty doesn’t mask the pain it depicts. Like more than a few others in this show, this is a painting I could contemplate for a long time. The delicacy of the colour palette and use of paint are beautiful and, viewed as an abstraction, these perhaps transcend the subject matter, but the slightly nauseating colour that bleeds into the painting from its edges and the jarring brightness of the light brings the pain home and reminds me why I seldom drink to real excess these days. [And if your waking moments this morning looked a bit like Photophobia, well, drink lots of water and perhaps have little lie down. Then, if you feel up to it, perhaps see whether you can turn the experience into art.]

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