This book covers painting in the last 30 years, but particularly looking at contemporary painting and where it’s going. Like its near contender Vitamin P by Phaidon, this is a very large book, picture-rich as befits the subject, representing a great diversity of artists. The text needs a bit of concentration, but it’s not impenetrable artbollocks, takes a broad view of the subject, and satisfactorily ties in with the selected paintings. The format divides the book into themes such as abstraction, landscape, life and death, the figure, history painting, and so on, with several artists reappearing across several themes – for instance Marlene Dumas, Anselm Kiefer, Luc Tuymans, Dana Schultz. This layout works for me, and makes a change from the A-Z of artists approach that contemporary compendiums often go for. In forming these sometimes loose and overlapping areas of investigation, glimpses of patterns, trends and common approaches are identified by the narrative – a hard task in a post-postmodern era where just about everything is being practised by some artist somewhere.
The range of works is quite exhilarating to me, and gives good cheer in demonstrating that relatively traditional art-making is still very lively and can be just as contemporary as new(er) media.