patternsthatconnect

abstract art, a systems view

Archive for July 2012

Abstract Critical on “Double Vision”

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I was interested to read Abstract Critical’s write up (click to read) of a show I posted about a few times recently.

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Written by Andy Parkinson

July 9, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Turps Banana Issue 11

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I love it when that Turps Banana hits my door mat. I know that I am in for a treat of looking at good reproductions of interesting paintings, reading thought-provoking articles and interviews and then pondering on it all for ages afterwards. Sorry, if I am sounding like an advert. I just can’t help being a big fan.

turps banana 11

It says it on the cover, so I won’t tell you that it is Turps Banana, issue 11.

In issue 11 there are two interviews, or conversations, that I am particularly enjoying, with two very different abstract painters: Katharina Grosse and Jeffrey Steele, the interviewers being Peter Dickinson and Katrina Blannin respectively. Dickinson opens with a statement about abstraction, which leads to a discussion about different definitions, Grosse saying ” I am not an abstract painter any more” where abstraction is understood to be “abstracting from or generating a residue of something seen”. Dickinson proposes a contemporary definition, where it is “the process of thinking and action” the resultant product being a record of that process. Clearly, the paintings/installations of Katarina Grosse come into this category, and so do the paintings of Jeffrey Steele, though the products of these two artists seem poles apart. There is something at least apparently subjective and random in the Grosse paintings in contrast to the mathematical and systems orientation of the Steele paintings, and Blannin does a great job of teasing out the origins, rationale and methods of his approach.

Neither interview is “easy” and both provoke as many questions as they answer (in a twitter exchange with painter Dean Melbourne on the morning we opened our copies of the Turps we acknowledged that our initial response was to feel a bit thick) which I think is what a good journal is meant to do.

Written by Andy Parkinson

July 9, 2012 at 9:41 am

Red Rhombus

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It’s a composite of four “identical” paintings, arranged in mirror opposition, resulting in the central red rhombus figure…

Red Rhombus,July 2012, acrylic on canvas, 24″x24″

…and what else?

Written by Andy Parkinson

July 5, 2012 at 7:00 am

Chris Baker and Natalie Dower in “Double Vision”

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The Double Vision show at Lion and Lamb Gallery, Hoxton has a lot to keep going back for, and I have at least one other trip planned before it closes on 14 July 2012.

Two paintings I want to see again are Natalie Dower‘s Fast Track Through 44 Points and Metan by Chris Baker. Both paintings seem to position themselves in a continuing relation to Modernism, as opposed to a break with it, and I guess this may be true of all of the paintings on show here. Maybe this is to state the obvious, it’s abstract art after all. But Modernism breaks down into a number of traditions even when we are within the general term ‘abstraction’.

Chris Baker seems to draw from many of those traditions, and I am not always entirely sure that they are ‘abstract’ as figurative elements sometimes find their way in, though not so with Metan.  Is the title Old English? Others of his titles are similar. Could it be that the paintings reference an outmoded language, one that has lost its original meaning and can be plundered now for new ones?

It “draws from” quite literally, the lines seem excavated from a less than unified ground, or alternatively it is created by filling in the negative spaces allowing the linear structure to emerge. It is double in that it presents a strong figure/ground contrast, the light lattice like structure being figure against the dark ‘background’ that is actually ‘foreground’.  It is also double in terms of the divided space, the structure bisecting the canvas down and across the middle (more or less) as well as in numerous other ways. The structure looks arrived at through trial and error, like a form trying to get out of the otherwise monochrome surface, and in getting out it bends the space, so that the bottom half recedes, giving the appearance of horizontality, whereas the top half extends upwards giving a vertical appearance. The bottom half of the structure could be the shadow of the top half if the lines corresponded, which they don’t so that interpretation is discarded, but then it reasserts itself, only to be discarded, it’s a cycle, a system, in a way.

Chris Baker, Metan, oil on canvas, 75 x 60cm, image by courtesy of Lion & Lamb Gallery

I situate Natalie Dower’s paintings within the tradition of Constructivism and more specifically Systems art. One of the many things I appreciate about that approach is the unpredictable and un-work-out-able results that can be generated by logical means, or a pre-determined path. The great systems thinker Gregory Bateson’s question: “What pattern connects the crab to the oyster and the orchid to the primrose and all the four of them to me, and me to you?” seems to resonate with Dower’s aesthetic investigations, based as they are on the abstract pattern that connects all things. Mel Gooding recently said of her: “Like her ‘Systems’ comrades, Dower has worked in the knowledge that all nature – from the spiralling mechanics of the galaxies to the growth of a snail’s shell and the branching of a plum-tree – is governed by mathematical rules”. So when I look at the wonderful Fast track Through 44 points, I know that it is ordered by mathematical rules, I just don’t quite know what they are.

Natalie Dower, “Fast Track Through 44 Points”, 2008, oil on panel, 29 x 29cm, image by courtesy of Lion & Lamb Gallery

I approach it a bit like I might a puzzle, attempting to work out what is going on, except that I don’t care much for puzzles whereas I do care a lot for this painting and paintings of this kind. Possibly the title helps to solve it, though it could be a diversion. I am sure that the organisation of the line and points through which it passes as it journeys about the surface is not random, but I am unable to determine the rules for it. As I study the construction I feel sure that the ordering principle is staring me in the face but I just can’t see it. I realise that this may be saying a lot more about me and my slowness to catch on, than about the painting! Again the ‘figures’ (the bars and lines) look like they are the consequence of filling in the spaces with black, so that it is difficult to decide which are the positive and which the negative  shape, though I think we would agree that we read the black as space and the lighter tones as structure, until we don’t. The support is shaped, therefore some of the bars are ‘real’ rather than drawn. I like the difference between the constructed edges and the drawn edges, and that the image extends beyond the confines of the square, confounding its identity as image and asserting its constructed-ness.

These are wonderful things to view, and I am looking forward to making another visit soon.

The other artists in this exhibition are: Dominic Beattie / Isha Bøhling / Ian Bottle / Katrina Blannin/ Alice Browne / Simon Callery / Keith Coventry / Tom Hackney / Jumpei Kinoshita / Hannah Knox / John McLean/ Sarah McNulty / Neil Mendock / Mali Morris/ Jost Münster / Selma Parlour / Geoffrey Rigden / Dan Roach / Danny Rolph / David Ryan / Estelle Thompson / Julian Wakelin.

Richard Long at Hepworth, Wakefield

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I visit the Hepworth, Wakefield quite often, usually a lightning tour towards the end of the day. This Sunday we were amongst the last people in there. It felt a bit like “last orders at the bar” and “time please!” The invigilators were kind in letting me take a quick look at Richard Long’s slate works, and magnificent clay ‘painting’, Waterfall – a site specific piece, before they closed the doors for the day.

I love the Hepworth. The quality of light in there is wonderful, perhaps the best lit art space I know, so you get all this wonderful natural light in many rooms, just great for seeing the work. And they always have a few really good paintings to look at (there’s lots of sculpture as you would expect, and whilst I like that, it is always the painting to which I am drawn). This time it was the fantastic Patrick Heron they have on show in the “St Ives” room. Sorry, “no photos allowed”. Does anyone know where I can find one to link to?

P.S. I say THE Patrick Heron as if you know that I only really cared for one of them. It had a landscape referring title, though needed no such referent. (The others were a figure and a churchyard scene that I thought were only OK.)

P.P.S. I found a link here (it gives an idea of it). The painting is titled June Horizon and was painted in 1957.

Written by Andy Parkinson

July 3, 2012 at 7:00 am

Corey Mwamba!

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Thank you Clay Smith for introducing me to the music of Corey Mwamba

Isn’t it marvelous?!

Unfortunately I will miss his solo set at the New Art Exchange, Nottingham, on 14 July so I am listening to and downloading music from his website at www.coreymwamba.co.uk for  now.

Written by Andy Parkinson

July 2, 2012 at 7:42 am

Posted in Music

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Four Chromatic Syntax Variations Combined

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2221,2222, 2223 and 2224, digitally recombined (a digital sketch)

What interests me most in the combination of these simple variations are the emergent properties: the forms that are produced as a result of the combination that I might not have anticipated.

Written by Andy Parkinson

July 1, 2012 at 8:48 am