patternsthatconnect

abstract art, a systems view

Archive for April 2017

Colour: A Kind of Bliss, St Marylebone Crypt

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I am delighted to have been included in the group exhibition curated by Lucy Cox and Freya Purdue, Colour: A Kind of Bliss, at St Marylebone Crypt from 5 April to 30 June 2017.

Julian Brown, Tattoo Lagoon, 2017, acrylic on linen, 80x100cm

From the Catalogue Introduction, written by Lucy Cox and Freya Purdue…

“Colour is a kind of bliss … like a closing eyelid … a tiny fainting spell.”
 – Roland Barthes

Colour: A Kind of Bliss brings together six British painters concerned with different approaches to the use of intense energy and luminous qualities of colour. Through varying densities of paint and chroma, saturation and de-saturation, their paintings realise direct emotive forms resulting in both subtly and vibrancy. Painting for these artists working in the field of abstraction/non-figuration is a synthesis of ideas, drawing and colour.

In the vast expanding digital world, we have become entranced by momentary glimpses of virtual light and colour, unable to arrest or capture fast moving, subliminal and evanescent experiences. This relationship has become a new condition for the human spirit, perhaps a kind of bliss in its own right, somewhat disconnected from nature. The screen distraction separates us from the power of colour in the natural world and our instinctive awareness and sensibilities of perception; encountering fleeting images of light is not the same as experiencing the contemplation of colour in the physical world. This polarity is conveyed in a number of ways.

Some artists express the meeting and departure between virtual and physical spaces, and the playful possibilities of optical illusion; others retreat into memories, music or philosophical and mystical thought, occasionally slipping back into physicality and the processes of seeing and understanding. All of these concerns embody colour as a kind of bliss, a never-ending kaleidoscope for both the painter and the viewer.

Artists: Julian Brown, Lucy Cox, Jeff Dellow, David Manley, Andy Parkinson and Freya Purdue.

 

 

 

Written by Andy Parkinson

April 4, 2017 at 7:30 am

Trevor Sutton, Assembly and Image, at Class Room, Coventry

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It’s not the kind of work I might usually associate with Trevor Sutton, having become more familiar with his paintings on dual or grouped canvases in the seventies and his recent paintings on board, often including paper, which could possibly be thought of as collaged elements. And this might be the link to the works here. They are assemblages, but of deliberately manufactured, rather than found parts, in painted plywood. They have all of Sutton’s hallmark precision, I can hear people asking “how did he get those shapes and edges so precise?” Indeed, especially considering that these were made in 1981/2, before laser cutting was in general usage. But they also have a quirky informality, which I think is less characteristic of Suttons oeuvre.

Trevor Sutton, Michael, 1981, Acrylic on Wood, image by courtesy of the artist

The space here at Class Room, is informal and small. The works on view are sharp, and about the size of a human head, inviting portrait associations. These were Sutton’s first works on plywood, and some were exhibited in New Works of Contemporary Art and Music at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh and Assembly & Image Paintings at the Lisson Gallery in London, both in 1981. The artist said he wanted to make something that seemed sharper, more immediate, whilst also being intimate as if looking into a mirror, and that’s the feeling I get as I look at them here, my instinct is to get close and peer into them, whilst knowing that the action takes place at the surface, not really inside, as in a picture of something else.

Installation view, Left, Michael, 1981; Right, Walking the Dog, 1982. Image by courtesy of Matthew Macaulay

Reading the gallery notes I learn that Sutton sent diagrams and drawings to the artist George Meyrick who cut the plywood into shapes for him. Sutton painted each plywood piece separately. When it came to assembly he playfully reconfigured the pieces rather than simply assembling them as in the working drawings. The perfect marriage of precision and immediacy is a direct result of the process.

As in earlier works drawing is achieved via construction, lines are real, the edges of joined or overlapping parts but the plywood gives the “drawing” more precision, more clarity when compared with lines created in earlier paintings by joining or grouping canvases, which are inherently softer. Somehow the unmodulated painted surfaces also look crisper when the paint is applied to plywood rather than canvas. Whilst the free-form shapes didn’t continue into later work the plywood, with the increase in sharpness it provided, did. So perhaps these assemblages could be seen as a bridge between Sutton’s earlier and later work.

Trevor Sutton, Tight Tumble Tern, 1982, Acrylic on Wood, image by courtesy of the artist

Am I wrong to find some similarity to the wood reliefs of Jean (Hans) Arp? Colours in both have a low key quality, blues and greys with highlights in warmer or brighter hues. In both we get concrete forms creating an abstract figuration. Coloured shapes (geometric with Sutton and biomorphic with Arp) in wood, appear to have organised themselves into a coherent arrangement, with subtle spatial ambiguities (e.g. the bright blue square in Sutton’s Tight Tumble Tern recedes slightly in relation to the grey, yet is clearly in front of the grey physically) and referential associations. Sutton’s titles (though not Arp’s) seem to encourage associational content. However, I want to be clear that this is not the same as representation. That one thing calls to mind another is part of our experience of seeing, and arguably, this is even more present in abstract works than representational ones. What I think is presented here is that process of seeing, the double movement of observing and sense-making.

Installation view, Trevor Sutton, Beverley’s Little Car, 1982, Acrylic on Wood. Image by courtesy of Matthew Macaulay.

There’s no way of getting to “Beverley’s Little Car” from looking at the painted relief of that title, and any connection in the artist’s mind seems entirely idiosyncratic, but cartoon-like associations do come to mind for me and those circular shapes could easily suggest wheels. Even then, the artist probably had something quite different in mind. In my view, abstract artworks are better titled than simply numbered or left “untitled” if only to make them easy to distinguish and to recognise, like people’s names. These paintings have been likened to portraits, but if there is a connection it is not in their resemblances, but rather in the kind of close viewing that is elicited.

Trevor Sutton, Assembly and Image, is at Class Room until 6 April 2017, Tuesday and Saturday 11-5pm

Written by Andy Parkinson

April 3, 2017 at 10:38 am