patternsthatconnect

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.
wcc

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

Interpreting the Abstract: Pareidolia at Pluspace Coventry

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Pareidolia is a special case of apophenia: the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. Having spent years in operational management I have been subject to numerous examples of apophenia, the most common being when a manager sees a dip in performance figures, interprets it as a sign of some lack at the individual level and decides to “take action,” a pep talk or a telling off, and then, when the stat’s show an ‘improvement’ the next day, ascribes the ‘change’ to his or her actions. In fact the data was random, both before and after the intervention. No change took place, just variation within a stable system.

With pareidolia a vague visual stimulus is perceived as something clear and distinct, like the horrifying face I always saw within the pattern and folds of my bedroom curtains when I was a child, or that image of Mother Teresa in a potato I was amused by this morning. Something more than the pattern is read-in, or projected. Jesus in the bacon dripping is a personal favourite. (For me, it’s so convincing I suspect it’s a hoax.)

In writing recently about the paintings of Lisa Denyer, I said that the viewer ‘completes’ the paintings in a similar way to “gazing into a fire and seeing one’s own imagined universe”, which I think is to encourage pareidolia. It’s not quite the same as seeing something that isn’t there, an hallucination,. If we distinguish, within the act of seeing, three separate actions: observation, interpretation and judgement, an hallucination takes place at the observation stage, whereas pareidolia is linked more to interpretation. Both seem to involve the imaginary, possibly in hallucination it is unconscious whereas in pareidolia it is conscious.

Ralph Anderson, Cut Out, Image by courtesy of the artist

Ralph Anderson, Cut Out 738, Image by courtesy of the artist

When I’m looking at Cut Out 738 by Ralph Anderson, I am not hallucinating the drips of paint that are also cut out of the ply wood of which the work is constructed, they are really there, and palpably so. Pareidolia kicks in when I  start to read the curved line toward bottom right as a letter “c” and the green diagonal brushstroke as a forward slash above which is an “i”, i over c, sounds like a vaguely Lacanian sign for something. I check it out with others who didn’t see it until I mentioned it. Perhaps there are degrees or levels of pareidolia, in which case this is low level, not Jesus-in-the-bacon-fat, full blown pareidolia. it’s possible that the artist intended for me to at least question whether these works are signs for something, or possibly even signs that signify only themselves.

In Louisa Chambers‘ painting  Balance 1, I am imagining some alchemy, the forms recalling, for me, laboratory instruments upon a table or work bench and the colours are fire. There’s a believable space in which some unknown drama is being enacted, unknown because it’s not quite figural enough to figure out what’s happening, other than the placement of colour-shapes, so I do what we all do in lieu of adequate information, I make stuff up, or rather I employ my powers of association in order to make sense of what I see.

Louisa Chambers, Balance I, 2013, acrylic on card, 16 x 22 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist. Image by courtesy of the artist

Louisa Chambers, Balance I, 2013, acrylic on card, 16 x 22 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist. Image by courtesy of the artist

David Manley‘s wonderful oval shaped black and white painting on aluminium, Martin Beck, seems impenetrable, I am struggling to read anything into the six semi circular shapes, subtle scuff markings and clearly drawn white lines, on a glossy black surface. Pareidoliac images form more easily where there is an abundance of indeterminate markings, in other words in works that are “painterly”, and even though here the black ground is far from unmodulated, it’s not painterly enough for pictures to suggest themselves. The painting is more object than image, more so even than Ralph Anderson’s “is it two, is it three dimensional?” piece. Knowing that it is from Manley’s Black North series, inspired by Scandinavian Noir doesn’t lead me to find images, other than the oval shape itself and the hardness of the decorated surface. The sense I have is of being confronted by something that is attempting to occupy my personal space, in fact I can be more specific now, it’s a shield, equally aggressive as it is defensive. And it’s only now that I realise that something similar to pareidolia is taking place after all.

Left: David Manley, Martin Beck. Right: Ralph Anderson, Cut Out 738, My snapshot

Left: David Manley, Martin Beck. Right: Ralph Anderson, Cut Out 738, My snapshot

With Phoebe Mitchell‘s Comfort, there being little formal structure and much painterly gesture, there’s ample opportunity for Pareidolia, almost an open invitation to read-in, not that much different than looking at Rorschach ink blots, if it weren’t for the fact that Mitchell’s work has many more times the beauty, and I don’t think that’s a projection. Similarly, in her other tiny painting here, and also in Rachael Macarthur‘s Untitled, what’s being presented is artfully vague enough to encourage the viewer to free-associate.

Phoebe Mitchell, Comfort, 2013, oil on board, 17 x 14cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

Phoebe Mitchell, Comfort, 2013, oil on board, 17 x 14cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

Should we distinguish between intended and unintended pareidolia? Is it part of an artists skill to direct the viewer to see what the artist wants, and to prevent ab-interpretations? (I am reminded of Adolph Gottlieb, in relation to his pictographs, if he discovered that one of his signs was actually existent in a past culture he would drop it from his repertoire.) However, sometimes an artist’s intention is for us to see things that s/he did not specifically intend, and I think that’s where Gottleib got to later on. The surrealist practice of decalcomania also seems like a good example of this attitude.

Left: Jack Foster, Untitled, Right: Phoebe Mitchel, Untitled and Comfort. My snapshot

Left: Jack Foster, Untitled, Right: Phoebe Mitchel, Untitled and Comfort. My snapshot

Jack Foster’s Untitled poses questions of interpretation that are more conceptual perhaps than others here. I experience far less free-association in pondering the inverted head on a green ground and I engage in a more linguistic attempt to interpret what is being presented. There’s little by way of free-association also in my own painting Hexagon Colour-Spread (BGRYMC), but the emphasis is more perceptual, the way the viewer constructs colour and shape is what’s being explored, the shifting gestalts also bringing attention to the pre-linguistic processes of perception.

Left: Louisa Chambers, Balance 1, Right: Andy Parkinson, Hexagon Colour-Spread (BGRYMC). My snapshot

Left: Louisa Chambers, Balance 1, Right: Andy Parkinson, Hexagon Colour-Spread (BGRYMC). My snapshot

The link between percept and memory construct is I think what is emphasised in the vulnerable little painting by Rachael MacArthur, shapes only just distinct enough to become forms but never enough to become anything specific. I like the pairing of this hesitant image with the more forceful and the largest painting here: Paradise (Yellow and Grey) by Ellie MacGarry, a painting that seems to exult in the perception of colour, showing how it changes as two colours cross, creating a third that is at the same time both and neither of the other two. Clashes of hue create lots of optical buzz and a lively space that keeps opening up and then bringing me back to the painting’s surface.  The drawing is simple and confident, looking like there was little room for error, as if the artist got just the one chance to place this series of lines, or this marvelous expanse of grey. (Speaking to her, I find out that I am wrong about this and that other versions exist underneath the surface.)

Left: Rachael MacArthur, Untitled, Right: Ellie MacGarry, Paradise (Yellow and Grey)

Left: Rachael MacArthur, Untitled, Right: Ellie MacGarry, Paradise (Yellow and Grey). My snapshot

Colour appears also to be a preoccupation of Frances Disley, in her three-dimensional painting Figure, especially in its power to dissolve form as much as to describe it, and to mislead even, creating events out of the absent shapes that are cut out of the surface and either discarded or added back on in a different place, along with cut-outs of digital prints or spray painted bits of foam. The piece has something theatrical about it, looking vaguely like an object from a science fiction set, Star Trek perhaps, a rock that might also be a creature, but that all along is clearly made from cardboard, or is it?

Frances Disley, Figure. Image by courtesy of the artist

Frances Disley, Figure, Image by courtesy of the artist

How we interpret abstract paintings, and the strangeness of sense-making, seems to be what Pluspace curator Matthew Macaulay is exploring by bringing together the work of these nine artists in the exhibition Pareidolia, which can be seen on Saturdays and Sundays at 50 Bishop Street, Coventry until 14 September.

“About Painting” at Castlefield Gallery

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About Painting at Castlefield Gallery, Manchester, curated by Lisa Denyer, is an exploration of contemporary abstract painting, featuring eight artists including me. I hope it’s acceptable to review an exhibition in which I am a participant. The artists are : Claudia Böese, Louisa Chambers, Lisa Denyer, Terry Greene, Matthew Macaulay, David Manley, Andy Parkinson and Anne Parkinson (no relation). It is an honour to be associated with this group.

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Window of Castlefield Gallery with my own painting “cover” on the wall below.

The gallery, which is this year celebrating it’s thirtieth year, looks out onto Castlefield and Deansgate rail and metro stops. Today at the opening, on such a warm and sunny evening the place has something of a continental feel to it. The colours of some of the paintings, warm hues against a pristine white backdrop, add to this sensation.

Installation shot, my photo

Installation shot, my photo: On wall: paintings by Lisa Denyer, Louisa Chambers and Claudia Bose, On floor: paintings by Claudia Böse Lisa Denyer and Matthew Macaulay, including painted stones by Lisa Denyer

In the upper gallery, works by Terry Greene, Anne Parkinson and Louisa Chambers kick off the show, and already what I am noticing is the variety of approaches. Greene’s paintings are intuitively arrived at, through a process of trial and error, in a context in which it is difficult to define what an “error” might be. In a way it’s painting as problem-solving, as opposed to puzzle-deciphering, where I am thinking of problems as having multiple correct answers and puzzles as having just the one correct answer. And whilst this could perhaps be said of all painting, for me, Greene’s work gives particular emphasis to this aspect of the medium. Colour/shapes are added and responded to and then, according to some internal logic, some are wiped away with a cloth and then something different laid down in their place. The residue of previous configurations shows through the final arrangement. It would be an overstatement to say that the painting makes itself, along the lines of a self-organising system, but I bet it feels that way to the artist, proceeding by continually asking the painting what it wants to become. Neighbouring Grounds wanted to become a ground only, surrounded by other grounds that might also be standing two dimensional figures gathered around a portal when the central area is an absence. When the central area becomes a positive shape then I can divide the action in half diagonally from top right to bottom left, the other shapes joining together to form a warped frame with the three shapes touching the top and left edge receding in space whilst the shapes along the bottom edge and right hand side push forward. Three shapes opposing three others forming an irregular hexagon in the centre.

Terry Greene, Neighboring Grounds, 2014, Acrylic on canvas, 35x25cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

Terry Greene, Neighboring Grounds, 2014, Acrylic on canvas, 35x25cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

In Anne Parkinson’s approach to painting most of the decision making takes place before the paint is laid down. A system is described according to particular rules, though I am unsure whether I am working them out correctly, perhaps due to the multiple ways we have available to us of classifying our experience. In Expansion,  nine paintings on unstretched canvases are pinned to the wall in a grid formation, I see a row of three rectangles above a row of four rectangles, above a row of two rectangles, but my brain fills in the ‘blanks’ to find three rows or four with spaces. Each individual painting similarly has three rows of four rectangles, that could be read as single brush strokes, with units missing, no one arrangement ever repeated. On the top row, one of the paintings is simply a black monochrome rectangle, yet I cannot help but read it as an ’empty’ grid now that I have become conditioned to see the grid format. I am recalling Boolean algebra, or digital information theory, where either a 0 or a 1 is the carrier of ‘meaning’. Yet the colour and subtle irregularity of paint handling is decidedly analogue.

Anne Parkinson, Expansion! 2014, Acrylic on canvas, 95x114cm, my snapshot

Anne Parkinson, Expansion! 2014, Acrylic on canvas, 95x114cm, my snapshot

If this analogue/digital contrast could be stretched to suggests a theme of something akin to “Technology vs Primitivism” I could claim to find this theme running throughout all modern and contemporary art and certainly it would be a way of codifying the paintings in this show. I feel sure this dichotomy is actually present in the paintings by Louisa Chambers, though I acknowledge my propensity to over-interpret.

Paintings by (left to right) Terry Greene, Andy Parkinson, David Manley, Louisa Chambers and Terry Greene

Paintings by (left to right) Terry Greene, Andy Parkinson, David Manley, Louisa Chambers and Terry Greene

There are four wonderful paintings by Chambers here, two from her Flatland series, one from her Rotation series and one from her Two-Foldness series. I love her use of colour and the way the images shift and create multiple readings, only one of which can be held at any one time, creating a sense of movement as well as a shifting of space within an essentially two-dimensional framework. Patterns are established and then interrupted, and figuration is suggested and then suspended in a continuous loop. The images have a cartoon like appearance, reminding me at times of TV graphics, and when I find figuration it is often technology or machinery in a landscape that comes to my mind. Issues of playfulness (and its difficulty) within a technologically determined world seem at least alluded to.

Louisa Chambers, Sound Reflector, 2012, Acrylic and oil on canvas, 70x60cm, my snapshot

Louisa Chambers, Sound Reflector, 2012, Acrylic and oil on canvas, 70x60cm, my snapshot

If in my viewing of Chambers’ paintings today it is image that I am most aware of, in David Manley’s and Lisa Denyers paintings I am reminded that a painting is also an object. In Manley’s delightful small canvases here, he explores a theme based on a proscenium arch that he first began using many years ago, and to which he has recently returned. The colours are inspired by light and colour of Cornish coastal villages, beaches and coves and the scale is small, miniature even, so that what their presentation as beautiful objects is what I see first, the fact that some of these tiny canvases are painted all the way around the sides increases my perception of them as things, also noting that the colours look particularly vibrant along the top, recalling the experience I often have when working on a painting horizontally, the amazing colour I see when the work is flat dissipates the moment I lift the work to view it vertically on the wall. Manley has maintained this colour vitality by continuing the painting around the edges and especially along the top.

Paintings by David Manley, my snapshot

Paintings by David Manley, my snapshot

Denyer’s paintings on stone are quite evidently objects. In these three dimensional paintings she brings attention to the stone rather than simply decorating it. There is an element of adding something that wasn’t there before, especially in the colours she uses, and there is a definite process of ‘doing something’ to the stone, but I am put more strongly in remembrance of Michelangelo’s strategy in relation to his Prisoner sculptures, where he claimed to draw the forms from within the rock rather than imposing them from without. In bringing my attention to the stones I notice that they are not at all in their natural state, they have already gone through a lengthy process of being quarried, built and demolished. If moments ago, I was thinking in terms of the opposition of digital vs analogue, extended to technological vs primitive, I am now thinking about the natural vs the artificial, which might actually be a subset of the other opposition already referred to.

In Denyer’s two dimensional paintings I am once again impressed by the refinement of the carefully made object, as well as by the textures of the surface when she uses found plywood. I think I have said before that I find both affirmation-and-denial of materiality going on here.

Lisa Denyer, Cube, 2014, Acrylic on found plywood, 28x31cm, my snapshot

Lisa Denyer, Cube, 2014,
Acrylic on found plywood, 28x31cm, my snapshot

I like that in her curation of this exhibition, Denyer has chosen to display the work in interesting ways. Some of her own paintings as well as some of Claudia Böese’ and one of Matthew Macaulay’s are propped against stones or displayed on plinths, emphasising their materiality. I am also very impressed by the way she has lit my own paintings so that the surface detail that is so difficult to show in a photograph, becomes easier to see.

The charming paintings by Böese here, are varied in style, some are “hard-nosed” abstraction exploring process in grid like arrangements whereas others approach figuration, based on Chaïm Soutine‘s paintings of flowers, often it’s frames and edges that she seems interested in. I sense that this links to metaphorical ‘content’ both about painting and about the psychological experience of feeling “on the edge” of something.

Claudia Böse, Relocation (I), 2010, Oil on board, 36x30cm, My snapshot

Claudia Böse, Relocation (I), 2010, Oil on board, 36x30cm, My snapshot

Matthew Macaulay’s paintings seem to have taken a near-monochrome turn as haptic mark-making and resultant images are unified using a larger swirling gesture, recalling the act of “whitening out” that builders or shopfitters might use on a large window or a vacant storefront. The gesture at once connects to a painting that is urban, vernacular, and largely unconscious. At the same time the colours he employs seem far removed from whitening. In this wonderful painting Living in a Daydream for example the overall red glows with an assertive energy. Its energy is all vision and image, whereas its gesture is more texture and material.

Matthew Macaulay, Living in a Daydream, 2014, Oil on board, 40x40cm, my snapshot

Matthew Macaulay, Living in a Daydream, 2014, Oil on board, 40x40cm, my snapshot

In my own systems oriented paintings, I may appear to be doing the opposite of Macaulay, who’s affirmation of colour and energy I might even be attempting to obliterate as I cover fluorescent coloured designs with a diagonally oriented chequer pattern. Actually, it’s what remains after this process that interests me, the way that colours show through, as well as, and perhaps more importantly, the way that when faced with a black and white pattern, and taking time to look, we involuntarily invent colours of our own.

Andy Parkinson, Contra Check 2, 2014, Mixed media on PVA coated paper on canvas, 50x50cm

Andy Parkinson, Contra Check 2, 2014, Mixed media on PVA coated paper on canvas, 50x50cm

About Painting is at Castlefield Gallery until 29 June 2014.

Evidence of a systems based process can be found in Andy Parkinson’s paintings. The checkered overlay has been adhered to a florescent ground, all but blocking out the underlying hues. However on closer inspection, vague forms and subtle colours come through from underneath. The optical illusion brought about by the contrasting black and white checkering creates the appearance of more colour in turn.

A similar repetition of motif is utilized in the work of Louisa Chambers. There is a sense of fairground and fantastical landscape in her vividly coloured paintings; it’s not surprising that contemplation of alternative universes has been instrumental in the making of these pieces. Imagery in the work references castles, monarchy, and the futuristic. These paintings bring to mind a kind of strange, robotic fairy tale.

David Manley’s intimate paintings are representative of a relatively new way of working in contemporary abstraction. Their miniature scale and clean simplicity invites closer inspection. They are the result of investigations into fundamental form and restricted colour, inspired by place, structure and an architectural interest, with particular reference to the proscenium arch.

The works on display by Anne Parkinson centre around pre-planned systems, and experiments in the properties of colour. There is an emphasis on polarity of hue, allowing a visual complexity to manifest when pared with simple mark making. The paintings were made to be shown together, so although each component is small in scale, the repetition in their display creates an impactful and responsive visual series.

The paintings of Claudia Böse show careful thought and process-led considerations around form in her exploration of the medium. Böse focusses on contained areas created by framing devices, inspired by the domestic and every day life; screens, table mats, and windows amongst others. These paintings incorporate influences from place, history and nature, creating a new interpretation of these ideas through an abstract language.

Matthew Macaulay’s playful use of paint is reflected in the titles of his work. An exciting energy is conveyed in his gestural brush stokes and mark making. Macaulay’s work is simple whilst being nuanced. His paintings celebrate colour and imbue a sense of impact, drawing on influences from art history, and reflecting his own experiences to produce something new and joyful.

Experimentation and risk taking are evident in the work of Terry Greene. However, careful consideration of form and structure is equally apparent. Traces of the painting process reveal themselves in the multitude of layers that can be discerned in different aspects of these pieces. Investigation, and a full exploration of the medium have occurred here before arriving at a tension that feels right.

Lisa Denyer’s paintings show a strong interest in materiality. The found plywood she chooses as support adds compositional details in the grain and irregularities of the surface. Simple shape, excavation and subsequent covering of colour are prevalent themes in Denyer’s work. Residual landscape associations are apparent, as well as references to architectural structures and cosmological depiction.

– See more at: http://www.castlefieldgallery.co.uk/event/launch-pad-about-painting/#sthash.b78Jnzbw.dpuf

Evidence of a systems based process can be found in Andy Parkinson’s paintings. The checkered overlay has been adhered to a florescent ground, all but blocking out the underlying hues. However on closer inspection, vague forms and subtle colours come through from underneath. The optical illusion brought about by the contrasting black and white checkering creates the appearance of more colour in turn.

A similar repetition of motif is utilized in the work of Louisa Chambers. There is a sense of fairground and fantastical landscape in her vividly coloured paintings; it’s not surprising that contemplation of alternative universes has been instrumental in the making of these pieces. Imagery in the work references castles, monarchy, and the futuristic. These paintings bring to mind a kind of strange, robotic fairy tale.

David Manley’s intimate paintings are representative of a relatively new way of working in contemporary abstraction. Their miniature scale and clean simplicity invites closer inspection. They are the result of investigations into fundamental form and restricted colour, inspired by place, structure and an architectural interest, with particular reference to the proscenium arch.

The works on display by Anne Parkinson centre around pre-planned systems, and experiments in the properties of colour. There is an emphasis on polarity of hue, allowing a visual complexity to manifest when pared with simple mark making. The paintings were made to be shown together, so although each component is small in scale, the repetition in their display creates an impactful and responsive visual series.

The paintings of Claudia Böse show careful thought and process-led considerations around form in her exploration of the medium. Böse focusses on contained areas created by framing devices, inspired by the domestic and every day life; screens, table mats, and windows amongst others. These paintings incorporate influences from place, history and nature, creating a new interpretation of these ideas through an abstract language.

Matthew Macaulay’s playful use of paint is reflected in the titles of his work. An exciting energy is conveyed in his gestural brush stokes and mark making. Macaulay’s work is simple whilst being nuanced. His paintings celebrate colour and imbue a sense of impact, drawing on influences from art history, and reflecting his own experiences to produce something new and joyful.

Experimentation and risk taking are evident in the work of Terry Greene. However, careful consideration of form and structure is equally apparent. Traces of the painting process reveal themselves in the multitude of layers that can be discerned in different aspects of these pieces. Investigation, and a full exploration of the medium have occurred here before arriving at a tension that feels right.

Lisa Denyer’s paintings show a strong interest in materiality. The found plywood she chooses as support adds compositional details in the grain and irregularities of the surface. Simple shape, excavation and subsequent covering of colour are prevalent themes in Denyer’s work. Residual landscape associations are apparent, as well as references to architectural structures and cosmological depiction.

– See more at: http://www.castlefieldgallery.co.uk/event/launch-pad-about-painting/#sthash.cu1kId2m.dpuf

Evidence of a systems based process can be found in Andy Parkinson’s paintings. The checkered overlay has been adhered to a florescent ground, all but blocking out the underlying hues. However on closer inspection, vague forms and subtle colours come through from underneath. The optical illusion brought about by the contrasting black and white checkering creates the appearance of more colour in turn.

A similar repetition of motif is utilized in the work of Louisa Chambers. There is a sense of fairground and fantastical landscape in her vividly coloured paintings; it’s not surprising that contemplation of alternative universes has been instrumental in the making of these pieces. Imagery in the work references castles, monarchy, and the futuristic. These paintings bring to mind a kind of strange, robotic fairy tale.

David Manley’s intimate paintings are representative of a relatively new way of working in contemporary abstraction. Their miniature scale and clean simplicity invites closer inspection. They are the result of investigations into fundamental form and restricted colour, inspired by place, structure and an architectural interest, with particular reference to the proscenium arch.

The works on display by Anne Parkinson centre around pre-planned systems, and experiments in the properties of colour. There is an emphasis on polarity of hue, allowing a visual complexity to manifest when pared with simple mark making. The paintings were made to be shown together, so although each component is small in scale, the repetition in their display creates an impactful and responsive visual series.

The paintings of Claudia Böse show careful thought and process-led considerations around form in her exploration of the medium. Böse focusses on contained areas created by framing devices, inspired by the domestic and every day life; screens, table mats, and windows amongst others. These paintings incorporate influences from place, history and nature, creating a new interpretation of these ideas through an abstract language.

Matthew Macaulay’s playful use of paint is reflected in the titles of his work. An exciting energy is conveyed in his gestural brush stokes and mark making. Macaulay’s work is simple whilst being nuanced. His paintings celebrate colour and imbue a sense of impact, drawing on influences from art history, and reflecting his own experiences to produce something new and joyful.

Experimentation and risk taking are evident in the work of Terry Greene. However, careful consideration of form and structure is equally apparent. Traces of the painting process reveal themselves in the multitude of layers that can be discerned in different aspects of these pieces. Investigation, and a full exploration of the medium have occurred here before arriving at a tension that feels right.

Lisa Denyer’s paintings show a strong interest in materiality. The found plywood she chooses as support adds compositional details in the grain and irregularities of the surface. Simple shape, excavation and subsequent covering of colour are prevalent themes in Denyer’s work. Residual landscape associations are apparent, as well as references to architectural structures and cosmological depiction.

– See more at: http://www.castlefieldgallery.co.uk/event/launch-pad-about-painting/#sthash.cu1kId2m.dpuf

About Painting coming to Castlefield Gallery in June

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About Painting

Claudia Böse, Louisa Chambers, Lisa Denyer, Terry Greene, Matthew Macaulay, David Manley, Andy Parkinson, Anne Parkinson

Curated by Lisa Denyer

Venue: Castlefield Gallery, 2 Hewitt Street, Manchester M15 4GB
Preview: Thursday 19th June 6–9pm
Exhibition continues: Friday 20th June – Sunday 29th June 2014

Terry Greene, 'Adventures in Naples' 2013, Acrylic on canvas, 35x45cm

Terry Greene, ‘Adventures in Naples’ 2013, Acrylic on canvas, 35x45cm

“The aim of art, so far as one can speak of an aim at all, has always been the same; the blending of experience gained in life with the natural qualities of the art medium.”
– Hans Hofmann

About Painting is an exploration of contemporary abstract painting. The exhibition documents systems based, highly structured pieces as well as those demonstrating a freer and more spontaneous language.

Painting is about being in the moment, exploring the properties of the medium to their full potential and allowing investigation into the multi faceted characteristics of paint. Abstraction is an engagement with the fundamental nature of the world through perceptive means. It is ambiguous and open to interpretation. It doesn’t pertain to any single subject, and has the capacity to represent a multitude of thoughts, feelings and visual stimuli.

Painting continues to be relevant because it is not convoluted or arbitrary, but honest and immediate. The painting process is reliant upon intuitive processes and the discovery of new possibilities. It involves being responsive, analytical, and fully engaged with the materiality of the medium. Dialogues, synergies and tensions are created, and polarities of colour explored on a given surface, often evoking a sense of recognition.

Every experience a painter has informs the making of work, just as the viewer brings their own knowledge which informs interpretation. In this exhibition, the viewer is invited to consider the decision making involved in the creation of a painting in terms of a series of significant events that align to form the compositional whole.

About Painting is part of Castlefield Gallery‘s Launch Pad exhibition programme.