abstract art and systems thinking

Posts Tagged ‘Nottingham

Louisa Chambers’ Stereoscope at Mrs Rick’s Cupboard

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Mrs Rick’s Cupboard exists in a time warp. Once the teacher’s cupboard in a Nottingham primary school, now somehow out-of-place, functionless, in the corner of artist Craig Fisher‘s studio at Primary, Nottingham. No longer a stock cupboard, it serves as an exhibition space that seems larger on the inside than on the outside. At least that’s how it appears to me as I view paintings by Louisa Chambers in this setting.

And having created that filter for seeing the work, doesn’t the background of Tent resemble the interior of Doctor Who’s TARDIS, depending on whether you are seeing the spray painted circles as positive or negative shapes? When they are negative shapes, I have the impression that an interior space is being described, when positive then it’s a landscape I am seeing.  This perceptual shift allows the painting to be viewed first in this way and then in that way and back again, but can never be seen in both ways simultaneously, though the painting holds both views. Perhaps the artist has something of this in mind, when she envisages the cupboard functioning as a Stereoscope, an optical device in which two separate photographic images that have been taken from slightly different viewpoints corresponding to the spacing of the eye, merge together to become a single three-dimensional scene. The device itself being an object of fascination, two flat photographs becoming three-dimensional only when the binocular viewer is brought into operation.

Louisa Chambers, Tent, 2013, spray paint, acrylic and oil on canvas, 23 x 30 cm

Louisa Chambers, Tent, 2013, spray paint, acrylic and oil on canvas, 23 x 30 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

There are other ambiguities that come into play also in this charming little painting. In one viewing the tent figure itself hovers in space, whether the literal space of the support, or the illusionistic space hinted at by the horizon line. The main figure could seem to hover above the horizon or settle down onto the ground that the low horizon line suggests and/or it protrudes slightly in front of the picture plane, and then readjusts back into the framed space. Another alternating reading also asserts itself: the yellow undersides of the lower row of circles/spheres seem to be attached to the triangular figure almost as if they are its wheels, a reading that can be sustained when focusing on the centre of the base and that falls away when focusing more on the edges. The main figure can be interpreted as a vehicle or as an object like the tent of the title, and then fairground associations are triggered for me, in contrast to the Sci Fi associations when I am reading it is a vehicle: a Robot, a Dalek perhaps or a spaceship. All this is further complicated by the formal(ist) abstract ‘language’ of the painting, warning me not to read content into it at all but to see it only as a formal composition of shape and colour.

Louisa Chambers, Unveil, 2013, acrylic and oil on canvas, 30 x 25 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

Louisa Chambers, Unveil, 2013, acrylic and oil on canvas, 30 x 25 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

Unveil follows almost the same compositional arrangement as Tent, the space being divided more or less centrally by a horizontal, a vertical and by two diagonal lines, resulting in a positive double triangle shape situated in a negative double triangle space, resembling a pyramid topped by an inverted pyramid, the shape of a ‘double tetractys’. The space has more of a sense of different two-dimensional planes than Tent, becoming more of an illusionistic space in the upper triangular area, as if the flat inverted triangle has opened into a portal onto a three-dimensional space in which an impossible figure rotates. Comparing the two paintings the rotating geometrical figure corresponds to the geometrical ‘ring’ figure in Tent. Both add further spacial ambiguity to each whole. In Unveil, flag like shapes might be interpreted as bunting, adding to a celebratory mood suggested by the joyous colours, that could equally be menacing. I am back at the fairground again where the clowns could be both comedic and terrifying. Yet there are no ‘clowns’ here, no human figures, only coloured triangular and circular forms.
There’s something Kandinsky-esque about this painting. Again I want to refer to the formal ‘language’ but I am wondering if the word ‘technology’ might be better, the means employed being derived from the technology of modernist abstraction, and in so far as content is suggested, we have objects and landscapes that are neither natural nor societal but rather technological, which I think I also find in Kandinsky.

Louisa Chambers, Non-Stop Radio, 2013, acrylic and oil on canvas, 30 x 25 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

Louisa Chambers, Non-Stop Radio, 2013, acrylic and oil on canvas, 30 x 25 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

in Non-Stop Radio and Over the Hill the geometric shapes, like paper cut-outs waving in the air of an unspecified urban park landscape have been anthropomorphised, as if they were dancing figures, with wide shaping at the topline contrasting with the close contact at centre, narrowing down to the feet that look only just strong enough to support the swing and sway above. These constructions could exist only in a painting, whilst looking like they could be fabricated in three dimensions I suspect that an attempt to do so would soon show their impossibility.

Louisa Chambers, Over the Hill, 2013, acrylic and oil on canvas, 30 x 25 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

Louisa Chambers, Over the Hill, 2013, acrylic and oil on canvas, 30 x 25 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

Looking at them, I sense the artist’s enjoyment in imagining them, as well as in painting them, with the lightness of watercolour, the paint handling seems so congruent with these fluid geometries, precise enough, yet never uptight.

Louisa Chambers, Louisa Chambers, Over the Hill, 2013, acrylic and oil on canvas, 30 x 25 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

Louisa Chambers, Timer, 2013, acrylic and oil on linen, 35 x 20 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

Timer could be a painting of a real object, something similar to an egg timer, but it isn’t. In fact, it’s an impossible construct, which again I would love to attempt to build. For a start, it looks much too large to be an egg timer, even without paying attention to the differing geometries of the four horizontal intersections. I know I am in danger of coming across like a die-hard Doctor Who fan if I say that it reminds me of the control mechanism of the old style TARDIS, but I just cannot help making that connection. I feel confirmed in my interpretation when I read in the gallery notes that “Chambers’ paintings present alternative universes where impossible science fiction/architectural structures comment on conflicts between our inner dream worlds and the technological robotic control on our everyday lives”. I’d go further and say that our “inner dream worlds” have been technologised, and Doctor Who could serve as an example of that.

 Rotating Shape (Side I and Side II), 2013, acrylic on card, 68 x 66 x 0.5 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

Louisa Chambers. Rotating Shape (Side I), 2013, acrylic on card, 68 x 66 x 0.5 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

Maybe it’s a response to the impossibility of the constructions within the paintings that has led to Chambers’ recent experiments in three-dimensions: Rotating Shape Side I and Side II, Shelter and Monument, all of which are here in the cupboard. Shelter and Monument are like nets in the moment of converting from two to three dimensions and Rotating Shape is literally that, a geometric painting on shaped card that can be both rotated and reversed (hence Side I and Side II). However even these constructible paintings have unconstructability in them, tessalating shapes, bending the space as they shift from one arrangement to another, introducing time as well as space into flat, motionless surfaces.

Louisa Chambers, Rotating Shape (Side I and Side II), 2013, acrylic on card, 68 x 66 x 0.5 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

Louisa Chambers, Rotating Shape (Side II), 2013, acrylic on card, 68 x 66 x 0.5 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

Although Stereoscope closed on 6 December, other paintings by Louisa Chambers can be seen at The Midlands Open at Tarpey Gallery until 11 January and at Crash Open Salon 2013, at Charlie Dutton Gallery from 11 December to 11 January.

A Walk Along Long Row in Nottingham

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I liked the way the geometric tile pattern seemed to race along with me and change as I walked at speed along Long Row East in Nottingham City Centre, early in the morning, on the first really warm day of this year.

Written by Andy Parkinson

June 13, 2012 at 8:20 am

Long Row Slideshow (Nottingham)

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I wondered what Nottingham’s Long Row East paving tiles would look like in a slideshow.

A Gallery for the Down Hearted

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I have blogged before about the paving tiles along Long Row (East) in Nottingham City Centre. There on the floor it is almost as if they form a gallery for the down-hearted. You have to be looking down to see them.

Well, I had an appointment early one morning in Nottingham, so I took my camera and some paper and crayons with me, got down on the floor and took rubbings as well as taking some new photos and making a list of which tile is where. I intend to appropriate them for a series of ten paintings.

Thomas Cook

Anne Summers


Primark 1

Primark 2

Primark 3

The Works

Jem Leisure

Going Places




Doing the rubbings I felt a strong connection with whoever designed them and even more so with whoever laid them (does anyone out there know anything about them? If so, please tell us what you know in “comments”)

Written by Andy Parkinson

June 7, 2012 at 8:00 am

City Gallery Nottingham, Painters’ Open

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I noticed a month or two ago that a new gallery opened in Nottingham.

The City Gallery is off Long Row East (that’s where the paving tiles are that I am interested in and have blogged about before).

It’s a “community gallery” which, sorry to say, to me means that not everything in there will be good. Well, there’s one of mine in there at the moment!

I didn’t get to the opening of the Painters’ Open, and as the gallery opening hours are 11 till 4 I find it difficult to visit. I took this snap through the window when the Open was closed. I also tried to get one of my friend Geoff Jones‘s painting but I couldn’t reach it through the glare and the shutter door.

We both managed to get to a poetry reading one evening and we were impressed. Apparently it was the Crystal Clear Poetry Launch Party and the readings were from: Roy Marshall, Aly Stoneman, Charles G Lauder Jr, Andrew MulletProof Graves, Mark Goodwin, Deborah Tyler-Bennett, and Wayne Burrows.

Written by Andy Parkinson

May 27, 2012 at 8:30 am

Long Row East, Nottingham

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In a previous post I said that these geometric tiles were to be found along Smithy Row in Nottingham, when in fact they are on Long Row (East)





Whilst I was photographing them one or two people looked down and said “I’ve never noticed them before”. And I overheard one person asking “what’s he doing?”

Written by Andy Parkinson

March 12, 2012 at 12:45 am

On Smithy Row in Nottingham

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On Smithy Row in Nottingham, so long as you look down, you are likely to see street tiles with geometric designs like this one.

In “appropriating” it I realised that one of the things I like about this kind of design, like the others I have been exploring in my most recent paintings, is that no one can claim ownership, they are always already existing.

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Written by Andy Parkinson

February 21, 2012 at 8:45 am

Art Postcards

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I posted here about The International Postcard Show at Surface Gallery, Nottingham and in response a fellow artist/art blogger Terry Greene suggested we exchange postcards of our own, and I agreed. He sent his ages ago and it was really a postcard, it actually came through the post, whereas mine isn’t finished yet and when it is I will probably resort to an envelope, in case the colours run.

Though maybe one of the interesting things about the painting is the evidence of it having been through the post. This one has ‘painted’ additions that make it a (slightly) different card than the one that Terry mailed. The work already has this contrast going on within it between chance and plan, and it seems to me to be enhanced by the slight risk of sending it through the post. Does it also say something about the difference between a communication ‘sent’ and a communication ‘received’?

Another thing that happened in response to my post about the show was that I got a comment from one of the other artists (as if to prove that it really is international) from USA, Vicki J Eaton, whose postcards are showing in the row above my own.

The show is on until 11 February 2012.

Written by Andy Parkinson

February 8, 2012 at 8:45 am

The Variety of the International Postcard Show

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I have three little pictures in The International Postcard Show at Surface Gallery, Nottingham, and having a look round the exhibition yesterday what impressed me first was the amazing variety of it. This annual show, in its tenth year, has 264 postcard-sized (6″ x 4″) works from 122 artists. And whilst the format is continually repeated, the kinds of work represented, the media chosen, the approach of the artists, the attitude of the work, all look very different.

There are drawings, paintings, collages, ceramic tiles, texts, photographs,etchings, lino-cuts, embroideries, etc in a great space.

I spotted work by an old friend of mine Ian Cutmore whose Moving Landscapes seem to emphasise that most of the ‘natural’ world I ever see is from the inside of a car. I am reminded of a childhood conversation with my father, him explaining to me that motorways had both marred and opened up the landscape at the same time. (Any trip on the M62 is a clear demonstration of this.) I snapped them here.

Below Ian Cutmore’s postcards are three by Christopher Moore: Untitled, Leaf Tip and Emergence.

Here are my own three (bottom right) and next to them is Will You Be Mine?  by Emily Bacon. Above them are, on the left three cards by Vicki J Eaton: Missing You, Pure Heart and A Dream and on the right two charming photographs by Richard Fish: The Corner Girls and Vox Nihili.

A lot of the work is for sale at £15 each and the artists also partake in a gallery facilitated postcard exchange after the show ends on 11 February. If you are anywhere near Nottingham, go and have a look.

Written by Andy Parkinson

February 5, 2012 at 10:41 am

Nottingham streets

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Walking along a Nottingham city centre street I dropped my glove, and looking down I noticed (surely not for the first time, though I cannot remember noticing it before) that there are wonderful geometric paving designs all over the place.

When I have an afternoon free I could travel the city street and document as many of them as I can find. I wonder who commissioned them and when, and who designed and laid them and in what conditions. Anyone out there know anything about them?

Written by Andy Parkinson

February 4, 2012 at 9:30 am


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