Posts Tagged ‘geometric abstraction’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are over 70 paintings on view in this exhibition that finishes on 7 November.
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
Borrowing its title from the terminology of manufacture and law enforcement, Zero Tolerance at Lion and Lamb Gallery, focuses on the extent to which three contemporary painters, Juan Bolivar, Nick Dawes and Katrina Blannin, employ systematic methodologies, or strict sets of rules, to construct their work. For me, it forms an urgent investigation into an aesthetic, highly relevant to contemporary life, that forms an alternative to the romantic/expressionistic tendency. I think systems aesthetics are being proposed here in other ways too.
In Juan Bolivar‘s painting, Anvil, we have a system of signs, that remind me of a set of nested Russian Dolls, the outer one being the perspex framing device that functions both literally, as a transparent cover for the painting, and also as a signal to read the work as participating in the tradition of constructive art. The painting housed by the perspex frame looks like a postcard of a Mondrian, taped to a flat surface. We are presented with a construction containing a representation of a representation of a nonrepresentational painting. I think it is more paradoxical than ironic: a sign that reads “this is not a sign”.
Nick Dawes’ paintings are sign systems in a more literal sense. He appropriates ordinary road signs as subverted content in the style of the Readymade. Crossings features three gloss black “Level Crossing” signs on a matt black triangular canvas, as much recalling the “Give Way” sign as it does also the shaped canvases of late Modernist abstract paintings by artists such as Kenneth Noland or Frank Stella. Formalist painting becomes content as much as it also becomes analogous with popular cultural design. I am tempted to say that here a formalist abstraction has become a representation of a road sign that resembles a formalist abstract painting. If Clement Greenberg proposed that Modernist painting, in privileging form over content, could be defined as “the imitation of imitation as process”, I wonder whether in Post-Modernist abstraction the process becomes rather “the imitation of the imitation of imitation”.
Both Bolivar’s and Dawe’s paintings, can be situated in relation to wider systems, whether high art or popular culture, just as they can to that other sense of the word “system” as in “systematic”, i.e. following a predetermined path, a procedure. And this is true also of Katrina Blannin‘s work in, I think, a different way. Clearly, Blannin is participating in that other tradition of abstraction that is connected more to Constructivism than to American Abstract Expressionism, the tradition that includes the British Constructionists and the Systems Group where the sense of “system” is a mathematical one. However there is also yet another sense of the word, that I want to explore, at least speculatively, for a moment, in relation to Blannin’s work and that’s the sense of “system” used in cybernetics, where a central concept is that of “feedback”, the process in which information about the past or present influences the same phenomenon in the present or future, forming a chain of cause-and-effect, a circuit or loop: output becomes input.
Viewing Three-piece Suite: Red/White (Double Hexad: Contracted, Root and Expanded + 123/321 Tonal Rotation with Shift), I have an experience close to ecstasy, and I deliberately choose the word for it’s inappropriateness when considering a piece that is mathematical, logical, rational. One of the things that I tend to do whenever looking at work of this kind is to count things. Before ever reading the title on the notes sheet I have counted the system or set of canvases that forms the triptych and then counted the triangular motifs that form the expanded system, noting how the white triangles are contained by a red line and the light grey ones by a black line leaving the dark grey ones unable to be highlighted, thus more readily becoming ‘ground’ or negative space against which the other triangles become ‘figure’. I have noted how the three tone/colours are arranged so that the same arrangement of lines (that also differs across each canvas because the widths of each canvas vary) is “coloured in” such that no colour/shape is repeated horizontally, in other words, there’s a tonal rotation with a shift. So, I’m doing all this counting and working out the logic of the piece and it might all seem so rational, cerebral, cognitive, yet I am using the word “ecstasy” that seems to belong more to our experiences of feeling and emotion.
But after a few moments of looking (and it does require a few moments, and real looking is also necessary, a mere glance will not do justice to the piece) I find that my emotional state has been affected, I have experienced a shift in state that approaches something of what I think we mean by a word like ecstasy. Where else does this happen? Doesn’t counting and emotion get conflated in our experience of anything that has rhythm? I am thinking of music and dance, where mathematical relationships become transformed into emotion. And there’s another context that I think is even closer to what’s happening to me in front of this painting and that’s the context of hypnosis where a trance might be induced through counting.
I could speculate that it’s the tessellating, the shifting of figure and ground, that leads to this shift of state-of-mind, (or emotional state), and this is where I come back to the concept of the “feedback loop”. Surely, it’s not really the object that tessellates at all. It’s a result of what the viewer does in relation to the object. At any one time, I am likely to see a different tessellation than the one you see. The object hasn’t changed, yet I am seeing something different to what you are seeing. It’s this system of object/viewer that Blannin’s paintings emphasise for me, and I wonder if what’s going on is that output becomes input becomes output in this continuous feedback loop and I experience this as fascinating, and even trance inducing.
In all these ways it seems to me that Zero Tolerance is an invitation to “think system”. Unfortunately, my brief review here is a bit late and the show has only a few more days to run. You can catch it at Lion and Lamb Gallery until 22 Feb.
I had the idea for this tetractys when I was working at Wallacespace on Duke Street, St Pancras
I was clearing away the marker pens after the day’s work when I noted this sequence of colours: yellow + blue = green, complementary = red, adjacent to orange made by adding yellow, complementary = purple. I made a sketch that same day and then during the next few days completed a version in acrylic and marker pen on acrylic paper, currently on display at First Come First Served at The Lion and Lamb Gallery. More recently I painted the version shown above, on board using narrower lines (possibly too narrow).
(The photo has a slight red cast due to the direct sunlight. My fairly good camera has a limitation of having automatic white balance only.)
A variation of a pattern that looks visually ‘quick’ at first sight.
However, it can become verrrry slow…
When you take your time with it.
Whilst this pattern looks visually ‘quick’ it is really only quick at first sight. Prolonged study elicits multiple interpretations.
How to encourage the viewer to linger a while, that’s the question.
A few days ago I delivered one of my new paintings to the Old Lockup Studio in Cromford, ready for our pop up show Salon 1, on 18 August. Whilst I was there I tried to persuade Clay Smith and Rachael Pinks that my work took only a few minutes to make and that anyone could do it. When Rachael suggested that there was more thinking time than I was letting on I dismissed her comment, genuinely believing that I did very little of that. Since then I have become more aware of just how long I spend viewing and thinking (sometimes with little or no internal dialogue and sometimes with lots of it – two very different modes of ‘viewing’). Because I enjoy it so much, time flies and I hadn’t been noticing the passing of time. It turns out that it is hours a day, looking, thinking, editing by which I mean turning canvases around to see different variations and paying attention to what changes and how the colour behaves. Early mornings, sometimes I find that I have spent an hour without realising that I had been doing anything it all. And it is through these time distorting experiences that I come to appreciate that these patterns are indeed much slower than they may seem at first sight.
One of the key operations I am using here is of course repetition. I aim to repeat a line, a move, a colour, a quadrant.
Yet I discover that I am doing it anew, even when what I thought I was doing was repetition. I’ll say that last bit again: even when what I thought I was doing was repetition.