Posts Tagged ‘aesthetics’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If I have a favourite artist it is Sean Scully. I remember once visiting Tate Modern with a friend, and in the time it took him to see everything in there I had viewed only the three Scullys that were on show. I was literally mesmerised by them. For me, the type of naturally occurring trance state, or reverie, that Franz Anton Mesmer (re)discovered is just the kind of experience provoked by many of Scully’s paintings. Whilst in some ways all aesthetic experience comes into the category of naturally occurring trance, (or if you prefer ‘flow’ state), the work by Sean Scully seems particularly to put me there.
You could imagine that a gallery might be a good place to find time for contemplation. .. unless it is such a gigantic space that walking past the art becomes the norm.
Surely he is right about abstraction, it does require contemplation and time, and isn’t it also the case that it rewards the time and contemplation given to it. That is certainly my experience with Scully’s paintings, even the early, minimalist-leaning work.
In Turps Banana, the interview is supplemented by some excellent reproductions, all of early work. I have come to like the more recent Wall of Light series (like the one in my photograph above, taken at Centre Pompidou) so much that I had forgotten how powerful some of the early works are. Soft Ending 1969, for example, seems to have an opticality that is understated or resisted in the later work. The development of Scully’s oeuvre could be read as an increasing emphasis on the physicality and objecthood of painting. Of course that physicality includes the optical much as it could also be seen as a container for the spiritual. Scully talks a lot about the spiritual in art, but I don’t remember him defining what he means by it. What he says in Turps Banana about contemplation and time possibly hints at a way of viewing that approaches spirituality in the sense of meditation.
The new issue of Turps Banana also includes interviews with, or articles about painters such as, Tomma Abts, Christopher P. Wood, Che Lovelace, Gavin Lockheart, René Daniëls and Rose Wylie.
Check out this post at Abstraction Blog with some good photos of three new Scully paintings at his current show at Kerlin Gallery, Dublin, and a link to itunes where you can download Turps Banana.
I saw this. I liked it, and I thought it was worth repeating.
I enjoyed this post about the continuing relevance of painting that I read recently, though it was written quite some time ago.
via Slow Muse
I may have said before that I think ‘painting’s many deaths’ would make a good study. I like the idea in this article that painting is indeed dead and that it always has been. That’s why it continues to be relevant: the job of the painter is to make it live!