abstract art, a systems view

The Image as a Fading Reality, Let The World Slip, Lion & Lamb Gallery

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Alfred Korzybski‘s famous saying “the map is not the territory” acts as a reminder of the slippage between reality and representation. What’s ‘out there’ is doubly filtered, first at the moment of perception and then again during the process of re-presenting it to ourselves and to others. Let the World Slip at Lion and Lamb Gallery seems to revel in that slippage, and in the ambiguity between abstraction and figuration. To varying degrees the painters in this exhibition seem to start out with re-presentation and then to get caught up in the means of re-presenting as its own end, until in some cases it would be difficult to reconnect to a reality beyond the painted object itself. Image becomes object as what is represented fades.

Some years ago I was driving on a busy motorway when I became aware of the lights of an aeroplane making its descent to a nearby airport, and for a moment I let the world slip just enough to be paying more attention to the lights above me than I was to the road, until the pipping of a car horn behind me brought me back to the real world, (it could have been worse). The Lion and Lamb Gallery is by contrast a safe place to allow the world to slip just enough to become fascinated by the way that the ‘fragile placement of translucent paint’ can both describe and divert.

Installation shot by courtesy of Lion & Lamb Gallery

The paintings that for me seem closest to description are those by Eleanor Moreton (also showing at Ceri Hand Gallery), in that the content is recognisable at a glance, Garland Dance for example is clearly a depiction of a maypole like dance. Yet it is also an image of an image. I don’t believe that I have ever seen a Garland Dance in real life, only ever in images. And isn’t the dance itself an image of country life or a of a particular conception of a social reality, now faded, kept alive only in images?

Simon Willems, curator of this show, presents meticulously rendered images that resemble snowglobe paperweights, or alien landscapes, or alien landscapes in paperweights: object becomes image becomes object, inner and outer worlds continuously alternating as they do in our minds eye.  I get a similar sense of to-ing and fro-ing between recognisable image and constructed reality in Thomas Hylander‘s paintings Playground (left  in above photo) and Mirror Ball, only in the Hylanders I am more aware of paint whereas in Willems it is the psychological construct, or fantasy, that I pay more attention to. Nevertheless, the paint in Hylander’s work seems to mirror those internal processes of recalling, forgetting, constructing, or as Noam Chomsky might have it deleting, distorting and generalizing.

Thomas Hylander, Mirror Ball, 2012, oil on linen, 30x20cm (mobile phone snapshot)

In Mirror Ball I think it is the nominalising process that the paint reflects. In language the movement of a verb can be frozen in a noun ( a nominalisation), for example, the verb ‘to reflect’ can become the noun ‘reflection’. What fascinates in a mirror ball is the glittering effect resulting from multiple reflections of small mirrors in movement. Freeze the movement and you lose the glitter. Hence the challenge for the still image to capture something of what only movement can produce.

In the charming gouache on paper by Mark Van Yetter it is paint as a metaphor for recollection that comes to mind, and that even in my memory place seems more permanent than action, though only slightly so in the painting where the transparency of the paint reminds me that all is in flux, even the semi permanence of objects or landscape. It might even be that the painted gestures are less fleeting than the objects portrayed.

Mark Van Yetter, Untitled 2012, Gouache on paper, 36x39cm, mobile phone snapshot

As I view, I recall a particular place, not the place re-presented here, but one very much like it that I used to visit as a child. It was so secluded that it was possible to remove clothes and go for a swim in the certainty that no one would see you. And from then, the event would exist only in memory. You could go back to the place and verify its continued existence but no evidence of the skinny dip would survive, only the memory of it, fragile and fleeting like the transparency of these painted layers.

This years John Moore’s Painting Prize winner Sarah Pickstone‘s Woolf, a portrait of Virginia Woolf in a London park also has some of these fleeting qualities and in Jo Chate‘s The Last Supper the distorting effect of memory seems prominent as layered paint seems to build multiple possible realities all contained in the finished piece which bears only a vague resemblance to its starting point, if indeed it ever started with the title’s theme. It seems just as likely that the title is the end point of an exploration that led to the vague resemblance, as if the image has found its way into reality rather than being a fading recollection of it.

Let The World Slip, an exhibition of paintings by Jo Chate, Thomas Hylander, Eleanor Moreton, Sarah Pickstone, Mark Van Yetter and Simon Willems is on show at Lion and Lamb Gallery, 46 Fanshaw Street, Hoxton, London until 9 December 2012.


7 Responses

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  1. Excellent, thoughtful review as usual…I invited Thomas Hylander to exhibit at Derby back in 2004…good to see some new work from him

    David Manley

    November 22, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    • Thanks David. Did he take you up on the invite and if so do you have any pics?

      Andy Parkinson

      November 22, 2012 at 7:07 pm

  2. I like the concept of the exhibition and the way you have analysed the works in that context Andy. Keeping them honest!


    November 23, 2012 at 4:52 am

  3. Great post Andy! And another good show at the L & L by the sounds of it.

    Terry Greene

    November 27, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    • Thank you Terry. Yes I love what they are doing at Lion & Lamb Gallery. In their blurb they say that they aim to encourage and develop current rhetoric about contemporary painting and I think they are achieving this.

      Andy Parkinson

      November 28, 2012 at 9:48 am

  4. Another in-depth analysis to keep me from sleeping and testing the comprehension of my failing gray matter – “if I only had a brain tra la” – The concept of letting the world slip just enough to heighten one’s perception, and the fragile and fleeting layers of memory suggested by some paintings is a fascinating area of creating that I indulge in from time to time – haunting and drenched in the mystery of process…


    November 30, 2012 at 9:22 am

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