abstract art, a systems view

Posts Tagged ‘David Manley

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

Now Has Already Gone! (How Soon is Now, Abstract painting in Nottingham)

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Still on the theme of shows I cannot get to, there’s even this one in Nottingham for the next few days, and although I live there I am just not around enough to actually get there. This is especially annoying as I am the one often complaining that it’s difficult to see abstract art on show around here.

That it is a pop up show means it’s here and gone in no time so aptly titled “How Soon is Now?” (27 Jan to 3 Feb only, with an opening night on Saturday 30 January from 6.30pm till 8.30)

Claudia Bose, Make Words Flow, 30 x 30cm

Claudia Bose, Make Words Flow, 30 x 30cm

So a very hurried post this one to highlight what’s happening and maybe to say more about it another day.

The venue is the Nottingham Society of Artists gallery, 71 Friar Lane, Nottingham NG1 6DH

Twelve artists work are featured in the show, spanning a range of disciplines; painting, mixed media, screen-printing, photo montage and sculpture. Showing fifty artworks highlighting the inter-connectivity of the featured artists’ work, in particular; adroit handling of colour and imaginative reworking of everyday materials.

lenoela Counterflow-Khaki

Noela Bewery, Counterflow-Khaki

Many of the artists are primarily painters, Noela Bewery, Lois Sabet, Claudia Boese for example, make paintings that are full of colour: acid yellows, warm pinks and vibrant greens. Jai Llewellyn, David Manley and Terry Greene all have a careful eye for colour, form and geometrical arrangements, mapping out elegant, sophisticated paintings.

The work of Rachael Pinks, Lauri Hopkins, John Stockton and Laine Tomkinson transform discarded book covers, cardboard, waste materials or rejected screen prints, re- imagined as vibrant digital collages or stunning mixed media works.

LOIS Eclipse

Lois Sabet, Eclipse

Clay Smith and John Stockton make beguiling photo montages that have an immediate and disruping political connection; featuring aircraft, sheep/cars in surreal displacement, or views of the landscape as if from an intrusive reconnaissance flight.

John StocktonUntitled-254 small

John StocktonUntitled-254 small

That’s it…more another day!


David Manley, A Winter Cycle at New Court Gallery

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There’s a wonderful photograph by Gillian Wearing in which a young man holds a handwritten sign which reads: “Everything is connected in life, the point is to know it and to understand it”.  David Manley’s set of abstract paintings The Winter Cycle, recently on show at New Court Gallery, Repton, could be said to celebrate such connectedness.

Installation shot, from left to right: For Reg, Flute Interlude, The Dove. My snapshot

Installation shot, from left to right: For Reg, Flute Interlude, The Dove. My snapshot

The paintings were occasioned by his moving studio from a shared complex of spaces in an industrial setting, to his home and in the removal rediscovering some small panel pictures he had begun and abandoned several years earlier. The new working space, facing a large window into the garden where seasonal changes are so visibly displayed, prompted the idea of reworking the panels into a series loosely based on the transition from winter to spring.
David Manley, Winter Storms, 2015, acrylic on board, 30 x 30 cm

David Manley, Winter Storms, 2015, acrylic on board, 30 x 30 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

Shortly after starting the project, Manley’s chancing upon Julian Broadhurst’s recording of A Winter’s Journey a set of poems by Reg Keeling, could be seen as an example of synchronicity. The poems, written largely in Haiku form, find something close to a visual equivalence in the paintings, though the relationship is indirect, acausal even. After all, one could hardly expect an abstract painter to produce works of illustration.

David Manley, Beyond, 2015, acrylic on board, 30 x 30 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

Perhaps the nearest we get to the illustrative is The Dove, in which a dove-like form is clearly discernible, though one could wonder whether the reference is as much to Braque and Picasso as it is to the Keeling’s poem of the same title. I prefer to see similarities to the process or form of the poems rather than expecting to find one-to-one correspondences with their contents. For example, the 5/7/5 syllable count in the haiku format is itself paralleled in Manley’s often repeated layering of pentagons and heptagons.
David Manley, Flute Interlude, acrylic on board, 60 x 60cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

David Manley, Flute Interlude, acrylic on board, 60 x 60 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

In Manley’s Winter Cycle, 27 small panels take their titles from the poems in Keeling’s collection. These are supplemented by three larger works, one dedicated to Keeling, one to Broadhurst and one entitled Flute Interlude, which again mirrors process more than content in alluding to Broadhurt’s use, in the recording, of musical markers between the readings. I like that in many of these paintings the allusions are to other senses than sight, specifically to the auditory system and indeed also to the olfactory, as in the painting/poems A Smell of Woodsmoke and The Smell of Ripening Apples, as if to attempt to trigger synesthetic responses.
I can imagine the artist at times looking for connections, sometimes very conscious ones as in The Dove, and then, at other times noticing relationships to the recorded poems that he didn’t necessarily look for, like the kind of filtering that occurs when, for example you buy a new car in a colour you think is unique, only then to notice it everywhere. The paintings are abstract, autonomous, not dependent on representation, yet they cannot help but refer, just as the more autonomous a system, the more urgent are the connections to its environment. What seems to be emphasised here is indeed relationship but of a very indirect kind.
David Manley, A Smell of Woodsmoke, 2015, acrylic on board, 30 x 30 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

David Manley, A Smell of Woodsmoke, 2015, acrylic on board, 30 x 30 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

Written by Andy Parkinson

November 23, 2015 at 2:06 pm

Geometry, Wonky and Otherwise at DEDA

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Geometry, Wonky and Otherwise at DEDA brings together nine abstract painters who approach something like the geometric in a variety of ways. Andrew Bracey, for example, geometricizes the human figures that feature in reproductions of relatively well known paintings. The triangular structures superimposed on the figures have a unifying effect, the individual particularities being evened out, as if draped by geometric fabric. A symbolic, or metaphoric reading, might find in these attractive works a criticism of the hegemonic geometry of the social order.

Reconfigure Paintings by Andrew Bracey

Reconfigure Paintings by Andrew Bracey

There may be a nudge towards the symbolic in the disquiet of Sarah R Key’s geometries. There’s something unsettling about the clusters of shapes hovering in an indeterminate space. Someone suggested to me that they have a science-fiction look about them, and the title of the one photographed below “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space” appears to confirm that. It would perhaps be too far-fetched to cite Freud’s concept of the uncanny because whilst Key’s paintings provoke a certain sense of foreboding and loneliness, feelings of unpleasantness and repulsion also associated with that notion are not at all my experience. In fact quite the reverse.

Sarah R Key,

Sarah R Key, Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space, 2014, oil on canvas, 90 x 100cm

Richard Perry’s paintings share some similarities with Key’s, but without the unnerving feelings. One of the differences is that whilst in Key’s paintings the clusters of shapes that form a strange, shadowless central object, exist in a deep space receding away from the viewer, usually larger than the viewer but at some distance away, Perry’s objects on the other hand, seem to project outwards from the canvas, inhabiting the viewer’s space yet they are smaller than human scale, like something you could examine in your hands, such as an uncut precious stone or a mineral. Key’s geometries are austere, sublime even, whereas Perry’s are friendly, at times approaching the domestic. Jewellery comes to mind because of its potential for framing the extraordinary.

Untitled paintings by Richard Perry, 2015, Acrylic and oil on canvas, 25 x 30 cm.

Untitled paintings by Richard Perry, 2015, Acrylic and oil on canvas, 25 x 30 cm.

Louisa Chambers’ geometry may be closer to Andrew Bracey’s in having the appearance of fabric or, more accurately, of wrapping-paper that is folded or screwed up and discarded, and then used as a model. Her Fold/Unfold series are like abstract still-lives, paintings of provisional ‘sculptures’, often including a horizon line. The scale shifts, the objects can appear small or large, the negative spaces in Raise 1, for example, becoming, on second reading, the underside of a structure such as a bridge or a tunnel.

Louisa Chambers, Raise I, 2015, oil on linen, 30 x 40 cm

Louisa Chambers, Raise I, 2015, oil on linen, 30 x 40 cm

Other paintings here by Chambers feature less of an illusionistic space. My favourite is Interlocking Pattern, in which two very different looking patterns, each founded on a grid which is also divided along the diagonals, meet along a more-or-less central point.

My own paintings generally explore patterns and patterning. The ones in this show include my series of ten small canvases, based on the geometric paving tiles along Nottingham’s Long Row East and a new larger work entitled Ninety- Two Divisions Square Duo 2 (close-up below).

Andy Parkinson, Ninety-Two Division Square x Two 2, 2015, acrylic on two canvases 76 x 152 cm.

Andy Parkinson, Ninety-Two Division Square x Two 2, 2015, acrylic on two canvases
76 x 152 cm.

Lucy Cox’s unmoored, sometimes patterned, rectangles delight in the ambiguous spaces they themselves create, whilst her coloured circles can be read equally as autonomous shapes situated in front of a rectangle or as being cut-out, revealing a further coloured plane behind it. My friend wondered, tongue in cheek, whether we might make three dimensional versions of these paintings, knowing that such a project would quickly fail. To borrow a Greenbergian idea, the spatial relationships are available only to eyesight.

Lucy Cox, Zippy Five, 2015, Acrylic on canvas 90 x 120 cm.

Lucy Cox, Zippy Five, 2015, Acrylic on canvas
90 x 120 cm.

The show is curated by David Manley, who also shows some magnificent paintings, including those on circular aluminium supports that merge layers of polygons, as in Old Sixfiveseven Again, where planes of serial hexagons pentagons and heptagons combine to form a visual, cacophony. And then there are the smaller, more mysterious paintings, like Bright Eyes, almost surrealist in feel. The colours being reminiscent of de Chirico, without the figuration, and the geometry resembling esoteric signs or ancient pictograms. I hear that there is another version of this painting currently on show in Manley’s solo exhibition Winter Cycle at New Court Gallery, Repton. I am hoping to get there before it closes on 30 October.

David Manley, More Bright Eyes, 2015, acrylic & vinyl on panel, 30 x 30 cm.

David Manley, More Bright Eyes, 2015, acrylic & vinyl on panel, 30 x 30 cm.

In Marion Piper’s Skipdance installation numerous canvases are positioned in relation to each other along a sizeable wall. The wall becomes the painting, each individual canvas the geometry, within which differences of line and colour are explored. I am fascinated by the subtle variations of line quality in the gridded sections.

Marion Piper, Skip Dance Pencil & Acrylic on canvas on oil, 2015, dimensions variable

Marion Piper, Skip Dance
Pencil & Acrylic on canvas on oil, 2015, dimensions variable

Terry Greene’s slightly off geometry, (in this show often triangular forms, arrived at by dividing a rectangle diagonally), provides for him an opportunity to explore colour. I want to say colour relationships but that’s probably not quite right. What is “right” is the way each piece looks to have reached a “correct” conclusion, as if always the result of a tough negotiation that is eventually resolved in a win/win settlement.

Terry Greene, Tricot, acrylic on canvas, 14 x 10”, Marylebone, acrylic on canvas, 14 x 10”

Terry Greene, Tricot, acrylic on canvas, 14 x 10”, Marylebone, acrylic on canvas, 14 x 10”

There are over 70 paintings on view in this exhibition that finishes on 7 November.

Upcoming exhibition: Geometry Wonky & Otherwise

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Geometry Wonky & Otherwise, Déda, 03 Sep 2015 – 07 Nov 2015

Curated by David Manley

Nine artists show how geometric shapes still inform and delight modern painters, creating vibrant works which suggest that one hundred years on abstraction is alive and kicking.

Whilst some of the paintings are pin sharp and disciplined, others play fast and loose with the shapes. Artists from across the UK join those from Derby and Nottingham in a selection of emerging and established names in a lively survey of what abstract painters are up to nowadays.

Featuring Andrew Bracey, Lucy Cox, Louisa Chambers, Terry Greene, David Manley, Andrew Parkinson, Richard Perry, Marion Piper and Sarah R Key.

FREE launch event on Thursday 10 September from 6.30pm

Written by Andy Parkinson

August 19, 2015 at 7:51 pm

Making Grey

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The Exhibition Grey at Harrington Mill Studios, curated by David Manley includes work by Chris Wright, Rachael Pinks, Dee Shiels, David Ainley, Kevin Coyne, Patrick Prentice, Steffi Richards, Joe Kelly, Paul Warren, Clay Smith, Sarah R Key, Lisa Denyer, Susan Disley, David Manley, Michael Finn, Louise Garland, Rob Van Beek, Shiela Ravnkilde, Jackie Berridge, Alison Whitmore, Kate Smith, Michelle Keegan, Simon Marchini, Beth Shapeero, Paul Crook, Fi Burke, Hayley Lock, Andy Parkinson, Helen Stevenson, Maggie Milner, Kate Smith, Tracey Eastham, Mik Godley, Flore Gardner and Justine Nettleton, very different kinds  of work in different mediums: performance, text, sculpture, drawing and painting.

Andy Parkinson, Grey, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 14" x 17"

Andy Parkinson, Grey, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 14″ x 17″

The theme for the show was inspired by a painting, in Manley’s collection, by Michael Finn, entitled Grey Blue. In the gallery notes Manley writes “it got me thinking…wouldn’t it be nice to ask HMS associated artists…to reflect, in whatever way they choose, on the colour grey?” The exhibition is a result of their responses, shown alongside the Finn.

I am intrigued by the multiple ways that the Finn painting presents itself, due in part to different lighting (physical factors) and in part to the subjective participation of the viewer (psychological factors). The appearance at first sight is of a grey ground upon which a darker grey frame is hastily drawn, echoing the vertical edges of the support. On continued viewing, the nuances of the coloured ground come to awareness. Colours shift and change, violet now uppermost, only to be succeeded by other colours: green, blue, red, ochre etc. This variability is a function of the process of layering one colour over another, resulting in a mixture surely more optical than physical.

Michael Finn, Grey Blue, 2000, acrylic on canvas, my photo

Michael Finn, Grey Blue, 2000, acrylic on canvas, my photo

It is difficult to photograph, the auto-focus in my camera cannot work out what to do, and though I switch to manual and manipulate the resultant, under-exposed image afterwards in photo-shop, I acknowledge that the snap hardly does justice to what I am actually seeing.

I think it is the case with many of the paintings here, including my own, that they almost defy being photographed, and it is certainly the case with David Ainley‘s Hidden Shafts: Grey, what you see in the reproduction hardly reproduces what can be seen in the work itself, and this is generally my experience of viewing paintings by Ainley compared with seeing photographs of them. Could it be that the paintings are much slower than photography allows? Standing in front of Hidden Shafts I am quite prepared to put in the the time that viewing requires and it is then that some of its hidden properties are revealed, layers of events becoming visible through the very process of being covered, like a stain that cannot be painted over.

David Ainley, Hidden Shafts: Grey, 2014, image by courtesy of the artist

David Ainley, Hidden Shafts: Grey, 2014, acrylic on drilled panel, 32 x 28 x 5cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

The tiny painting/collage  here by Rachael Pinks, entitled Tales of Ancient Pain, only just grey, more black, white and blue, lots of blue, prompting, for me, sea and sky associations, includes along the top edge, a scrap of text torn from a book. If I had brought my glasses with me I might be able to determine whether that fragment of text is the source of the title.

Rachael Pinks, Tales of Ancient Pain, Image by David Manley, courtesy of the artist

Rachael Pinks, Tales of Ancient Pain, 2014, acrylic and collage on paper. Image by David Manley, courtesy of the artist

The text, the title, and the seascape associations trigger for me a search for narrative, whether found in imagined content, perhaps a storm or a shipwreck, or in the process of assembling an image form torn paper, a narrative of sorts, perhaps a “process narrative”. I am especially interested in this narrative that is embedded in the act of making, and I think I find something of this also in David Ainley’s work as well as in Sarah R Key‘s.

I wrote briefly about Key’s painting An Equivalent Other, at Constructed Realities, wondering whether it might contain “some hidden or mysterious narrative”. The cluster of triangles becomes a depicted object, almost box like, with what could be opening tabs that create hints of a dimensionality, all against a dark ground that refuses to provide a context. The lighter blue/grey triangles at top, bottom and right can also be read as negative spaces, or a window through which two triangles one green, one violet, can be seen, if ‘floating’ in space they are anchored at edge or corner, so they never quite ‘escape’ to any place beyond this configuration. Even in describing the action I am doing so in terms of a narrative, again of sorts.

Sarah. R. Key, An Equivalent Other, 2014, my snapshot.

Sarah. R. Key, An Equivalent Other, 2014, my snapshot.

Whereas for many abstract artists geometry suggests rationality, with Key I almost want to say that her geometry denotes the opposite, though I realise that this is entirely interpretive on my part and it could simply be that I am inventing a link between her abstract work (she would say “for want of a better term”), and some of her more figurative paintings, (and again one could say “for want of a better term”). What I think I find in Key’s work is a challenging of the distinction. Rather than the polar opposites of either/or, black and white, we get both/and: shades of grey.

Grey, continues at Harrington Mill Studios until 28 November


Written by Andy Parkinson

November 17, 2014 at 9:18 am

Grey at Harrington Mill Studios

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See Constructed Realities for a brief review of paintings by Sarah R KeyLisa Denyer,Terry GreeneSusan Disley, David Manley and Michael Finn currently on show at the exhibition Grey, curated by David Manley, at Harrington Mill Studios,

Sarah. R. Key, An Equivalent Other, 2014, my snapshot.

Sarah. R. Key, An Equivalent Other, 2014, my snapshot.

Also, watch this space (patternsthatconnect) for a further review of a few of the other paintings in the same show.

Written by Andy Parkinson

November 12, 2014 at 10:18 pm