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abstract art, a systems view

Posts Tagged ‘Lisa Denyer

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.

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Written by Andy Parkinson

November 12, 2014 at 10:18 pm

“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.

The Paintings of Lisa Denyer

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I have missed too many painting shows already this year. One that I would have loved to see, but just couldn’t get my calendar to co-coincide with, was Geode, an exhibition of paintings by Lisa Denyer, at South Square. Often quite ‘formless’, especially compared to her earlier geometric paintings, Denyer’s recent paintings are like gaseous non-substances, diaphanous veils, pure illusion, immaterial yet at the same time exulting in materiality. The contradiction puts me in mind of Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried’s enthusiasm for “flatness and its delineation” being simultaneously an insistence on “opticality”, prompting the distinction between, and the ‘holding in tension’ of, image and object[i].

Lisa Denyer, Cube, acrylic on found plywood. Image by courtesy of the artist

Lisa Denyer, Cube, 2014, acrylic on found plywood, 28 x 31 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

I find this tension in Denyer’s paintings, which is not to suggest that she is committed to the Greenbergian position that was so influential for abstract painters in the latter half of the twentieth century. In fact, working against the visual modality, or opticality, is a clear interest in surface texture, which provokes at least an imagined crossover from visual to kinaesthetic perception. So when she’s working on found plywood, it’s the rough-and-readiness of the surface that is enhanced by the application of thin layers of liquid paint that adheres to the crevices amplifying the texture. There’s also an emphasis on the engagement of the viewer that Fried might have objected to, no doubt labelling it “theatricality”. The subjective participation of the viewer ‘completes’ these paintings in a fashion akin to the action of gazing into a fire and seeing one’s own imagined universe, or if not the universe, certainly the milky way, Denyer’s art so often resembling the night sky.

Lisa Denyer, Moon, acrylic and emulsion on found plywood. Image by courtesy of the artist

Lisa Denyer, Moon, 2014, acrylic and emulsion on found plywood, 28 x 30cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

The two dimensional paintings, usually on plywood, look like they were factured on the horizontal, either on the floor or on a table, and the images, in so far as they are images at all, look less composed than arrived at through operational processes. Leo Steinberg’s “flatbed picture plane” comes to mind. And it seems a natural step from these works to the three dimensional paintings on stone, which I do think of much more as paintings than as sculptures.

Geode, Installation view. Image by courtesy of the artist.

Geode, Installation view. Image by courtesy of the artist.

Like the works on plywood, these paintings also explore surface texture, both affirming and denying it, attempting perhaps to bring out the hidden qualities of the stone, as if the crevices, geode like, are lined with minerals or crystals. That the inherent qualities of the stone are highlighted reminds me of Michelangelo’s prisoners, where figures emerges from rocks “as though surfacing from a pool of water”. But there is nothing figural here, it’s more like space itself is surfaced, having been developed from something latent within the object, as opposed to having been imposed upon the object. In this respect we could make a contrast with Kurt Schwitters’ Painted Stone, where a geometric pattern looks more to have been inscribed onto the rock from without.
Lisa Denyer, Painted Stone. Image by courtesy of the artist

Lisa Denyer, Painted Stone, 2013, 23 x 17 x 13 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

Denyer’s stones are rescued from local derelict buildings, ready-mades, years ago having been quarried, dressed and built, only then to become weathered and eventually falling into collapse or demolition, almost returning to their natural state, before she reclaims them, transforming them into giant synthetic gems.

Whether on plywood or stone, Denyer’s paintings have this gemlike quality as if by some alchemy she transforms her materials into precious metals, once liquid now gemstone, that when gazed into appear to contain the night sky.


[i] For an excellent recent discussion see the chapter on Opticality in Modernist Painting and Materiality by Graig Staff

Painting Too at Harrington Mill Studios

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Painting Too, at Harrington Mill Studios, forms part-two of a duo of shows about abstract painting, demonstrating that, to quote its curator David Manley: “current abstraction is in rude good health”. If part-one, featured that strand of abstraction that foregrounds a “formal” as opposed to “informal” approach, part two concentrates on the other strand, work that is looser in execution, more “provisional”, “casual” “informal”, more Romantic than Classical, or possibly even, more Dionysian than Apollonian.

Installation shot, from left: Lisa Denyer, Rachael Pinks, Terry Greene, Matthew Macaulay. Image by courtesy of HMS

Installation shot, from left: Lisa Denyer, Rachael Pinks, Terry Greene, Matthew Macaulay. Image by courtesy of HMS

The most provisional are Vincent Hawkins playful paper cut-outs and paper folds that might be the biproduct of some other process, as if the paper that he was resting on has become an event in itself, rather than being discarded it is presented as uncomposed image, unconscious design, a strategy similar to that of displaying a used artists’ pallet as a painting. I love their simplicity (of sorts) and audacity, and the challenge they pose to my preconceived ideas about what a painting might be. The folded works bring attention to the way a painting might be more a construction than a composition, and even though I started out thinking of these as ‘provisional’ or romantic my distinction already breaks down as I see connections to the constructivist tradition, which for me adheres more readily to the classical pole.

Vincent Hawkins, Untitled. Image by courtesy HMS

Vincent Hawkins, Untitled. Image by courtesy HMS

Rachael Pinks‘ works on paper, made from pages torn from second hand books and painted, are more consciously constructed than Hawkins’. I feel invited to get up close and study them, and as I do so I find detail that fascinates me just as I might do if I was viewing a miniature. I read them as abstract miniatures, a notion that would have been unthinkable say twenty years ago. This seems to me to be one of the things that makes them contemporary. In this show, they are simply attached to the wall, unframed, bringing my attention to the slightly irregular shapes of many of them, emphasising the way they have grown into being, if not quite organically, rather in a dialogical fashion, in conversation between artist and material. That they are grouped so closely together also highlights the off-straight edges and the relationships between pieces.

Stephen MacInnes’s decorative 12″ x 12″ paintings on paper from his ‘long series’ are also organised together for maximum effect, creating an impressive tiled wall of arching forms. Works that might have looked casual take on an architectural quality.

Stephen MacInnes, selection from the Long Series. Image by courtesy HMS

Stephen MacInnes, selection from the Long Series. Image by courtesy HMS

Rachael Macarthur‘s small works on paper, again unframed and simply attached to the wall, seem closer to Hawkins in their nearness to the provisional or at least casualist approach. Seeing Tabula Rasa again confirms my appreciation of this piece, I continue to feel surprise at how something so slight can have such an impact. There’s a lot more going on in Russia, there is more drawing, and like Pinks’ little paintings/collages there are landscape associations, but they are residual, the sense I have is that the more the painting attempts to capture a memory of something, the more it resembles only the process of attempting to recall.

Rachael Macarthur, Russia. Image by courtesy of the artist

Rachael Macarthur, Russia. Image by courtesy of the artist

Terry Greene‘s paintings have a casualness about them too. They look like the paint was applied quickly, perhaps in an attempt to prevent the conscious mind from interfering too much in the process, yet with time gaps between painting sessions, creating for the artist opportunities to study them, to reflect and even to forget, whilst for the eventual viewer, layers of underpainting slow down the resulting image. I hesitate to say ‘image’ because these small paintings have so much materiality about them, the paint often over spilling the edges of the canvas. It occurs to me that the tension that is created between quick graphic image and slow build-up of material is a large part of what I am finding so interesting in Greene’s paintings.

Terry Greene, The condition of things which they have finally settled into, 2013, acrylic on canvas stretched over hardboard and stretcher, 12 1/4" x 9 1/4". Image by courtesy of the artist

Terry Greene, The condition of things which they have finally settled into, 2013, acrylic on canvas stretched over hardboard and stretcher, 12 1/4″ x 9 1/4″. Image by courtesy of the artist

Something similar is going on for me in the paintings on plywood by Lisa Denyer. Their materiality is both posited and negated in the diaphanous quality of the resulting form. The word ‘image’ seems even less appropriate in that each piece looks so little like a picture of something other than space, and ‘object’ seems equally wrong because of the immateriality of the washes that the eye perceives more as gas than as liquid, despite the carefully crafted wooden support.

Lisa Denyer, Cross, acrylic on plywood, 30cm x 25cm

Lisa Denyer, Cross, acrylic on plywood, 30cm x 25cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

There are four confident paintings by Matthew Macaulay on show here. Two of them are painted on table tops, which lends them a solidity and a presence that seems to transform confidence into authority, especially so in the magnificent Thinking about Painting, 2103 (see installation shot above). Whilst the linear landscape format and the bold gestures in strong colour, for me recall Ivon Hitchens and Howard Hodgkin, there is something entirely contemporary in the experimentation with support and the unorthodox approach to ‘composition’, it might even be an anti-composition, approaching a cataloguing of visual statements, that resists, at least for a few moments, forming into a picture.

Painting Too is on at Harrington Mill Studios until 24 November, Viewing by appointment Tel 07891 262 202

Form/Function at Piccadilly Place Manchester

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When the awards are handed out for services to abstraction, Lisa Denyer and Matthew Macaulay should get big shiny ones for continuing to bring interesting contemporary abstract paintings to engaging city centre venues outside of London. At Form/Function they bring together work from ten artists in a difficult space, an unoccupied office block at Piccadilly Place, Manchester, that works many times more than perhaps it should do, and the sense of it working, against all the odds, increases as I pay attention to each piece. Perhaps it’s the fact that the artists were asked to respond to the space, and its subverted functionality, that makes the show so successful.

Karl Bielik, Arrow, oil on canvas. Image by courtesy of Lisa Denyer and the artist.

Karl Bielik, Arrow, oil on canvas. Image by courtesy of Lisa Denyer and the artist.

The rich greys in Karl Bielik‘s “Arrow” seem to echo the greys of the walls, without blending into them, and there is enough natural light to see the subtle rhythms in the image as spatial passages between roughly painted figures opens up. A luminous yellow/green area underneath a layer of grey shines through to the surface. Above it a white painted area has a hardness about it and the spaces within it start to resemble the kind of space you get in a rock or mountain formation. It’s just enough to evoke landscape without attempting to represent a landscape, in the same way that a poem or a song might evoke an experience without actually describing it. Then the shapes seem more to connote a stage, the kind that children might make from furniture draped with a white sheet. That a grey/brown shape towards the right hand edge could be read as having an edge like the edge of a sheet of paper adds to my “home made stage” fantasy. But studying the rest of the painting ultimately denies these associations and I become aware of my active participation as an interpreter, that what I “observe” turns out to be a projection. And this engagement of my own epistemological processes is, for me, one of the attractions of abstract art.

Terry Greene 'The world is a hankerchief' and 'Mi casa, su casa'

Installation shot showing Terry Greene, ‘The world is a handkerchief’ and ‘Mi casa, su casa’. Image by courtesy of Lisa Denyer.

The two paintings by Terry Greene feature painted lines on canvas, with accompanying events. They are nearer to ‘geometrical’ than other paintings of his I have seen, whilst in continuation with other of his work, he employs a method of making multiple iterations, arriving at a final form as if by thinking aloud, previous versions, becoming a part, even if as shadows, of the completed whole.

Paintings by Brendan Lancaster appear almost to grow out of the wall, mortar and other markings in the environment could be tracks or drips of paint from one of Lancaster’s canvases. However, the pictorial space in the paintings contrasts with the flatness of the grey breeze blocks. In Snag, a portal almost gives view of a world beyond the canvas but also continually brings my eye back to the painting’s surface. Long brush strokes produce curving bands, recalling a morbius strip, tracing a route that creates a shallow cubist space at the right hand edge, but leads into something approaching illusionistic three dimensions just above the centre. My attempts to make sense of what might be “out there” are frustrated by the reappearance of the wall-like surface toward the left hand side.

Brendan Lancaster 'Snag'

Brendan Lancaster ‘Snag’. Image by courtesy of Lisa Denyer

There are wonderful little paintings on paper here by Rachael Macarthur, one posted to a concrete pillar functions as a marker, alerting me to the possibility that the pillar could itself be a painting of sorts, having circles inscribed into its surface along with an accidental smear of paint. I suspect that it is the minimalism (I mean it in an informal sense) of the art work that leads me to notice what’s around it, and to include it in my experience of looking at the art. However, it is also the art works difference to the environment that becomes heightened. The stark utility of the surroundings contrasts with the uncertain functionality of the paintings.

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Installation shot: Rachael Macarthur painting on paper on pillar in foreground with Brendan Lancaster and Terry Greene paintings on wall behind. Image by courtesy of Lisa Denyer.

Sarah McNulty‘s paintings share with the others here an interest in minimal form as well as an experimental approach to image making. I get the feeling that her paintings invent themselves under the general tutelage of the artist. I wonder if the choice to place the painting ‘Foil’ on a concrete brick was influenced by the Plane Space exhibition at Worcester Cathedral in 2012, where one of her paintings was similarly situated. Having seen that show I cannot help but make the connection, and to note both similarities and huge differences in the type of space being inhabited.

Sarah McNulty 'T.' and 'Foil'

Sarah McNulty: ‘T’., oil on linen, 61x 50cm (left) and ‘Foil’, oil on panel, 50x50cm (right). Image by courtesy of Lisa Denyer

Lisa Denyer‘s paintings, once much more geometrical, these days approach diaphanous veils of carefully mixed colours, bursting into arrays of amorphous shapes, evoking landscape, and more often sky or space-scape, like miniature milky ways, . And the process of seeing them has similarities to the act of looking into the night sky and constructing images from constellations and clouds.

Lisa Denyer, Billow, 25x30cm. Image by courtesy of the artist.

Lisa Denyer, Billow, 25x30cm. Image by courtesy of the artist.

By now, I am used to seeing paintings by Matthew Macaulay propped up against a wall (at Meditations) or on a shelf (at Treatment) so it should be no surprise to see them here placed directly on the floor where there situation has to be taken into account when looking at them. In fact there is something vaguely humorous about their placing, so that although I shouldn’t be surprised I am, and I smile. That I get taken aback slightly seems right to me. In other arrangements of paintings by Macaulay interesting relationships between small paintings are set up, such that a novel way of organising separate images, becomes the art work. Arranging the paintings becomes drawing. Here the relationship with the immediate context rather than with other paintings could be seen as part of the work.

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Painting by Matthew Macaulay. Image by courtesy of Terry Greene

By far the most difficult wall to deal with in this exhibition is the one with the shiny insulating material and Macaulay dares to place a tiny painting of his against it, as if to challenge us to notice it. Next to it is probably the largest painting in the show that just about competes with that wall, a marvelous oil on canvas by Joe Packer entitled LizardDays, a tree-like image with barely anything happening in the ‘leaves’ and lots of painterly events crammed into the ‘trunk’ space. Daubs of contrasting colours appear to float in mid air, sometimes serenely and at other times frantically, beneath a vast green canopy.

In front are three raised platforms, displaying over 20 small images on paper by Phoebe Mitchell. They form a delightful collection that functions as an artist’s book (I might have said ‘sketchbook’, except that they are much more refined than sketches), each individual piece worthy of prolonged viewing whilst also looking good as an arrangement.

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Back wall: Joe Packer and Matthew Macaulay, front: Phoebe Mitchell. Image by courtesy of Lisa Denyer

Melanie Russell‘s attractive new paintings are characteristically high in colour, with a synthetic quality, abstracted from “real life” observation (apparently, these have a relationship to power lines) they have become explorations of the kinds of spaces that hard edge bands of colour distributed over flat expanses of colour create.

Installation: Terry Greene, Matthew Macaulay, Melanie Russell, Karl Bielik. Image by courtesy of Lisa Denyer

Installation: Terry Greene, Matthew Macaulay, Melanie Russell, Karl Bielik. Image by courtesy of Lisa Denyer

Lisa Denyer’s three dimensional painting on a piece of stone salvaged from a soon to be demolished building is perhaps the biggest surprise for me in this show. It is clearly painted from the outside, yet with little if any evidence of brush work, the colours look like they are pushed or stained into the surface. Enhancing the undulations of the existing form, I could imagine that the colours, rather than being applied, are drawn out from within. Its an old discarded stone, transformed, made precious, but also in another sense quite unchanged.

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In a domestic environment this and other of the forms in the exhibition, might function as decoration, (in my view a more worthy function than is often allowed), but not here. These forms don’t really adorn the space and make it more beautiful, they are too small for that, and the space too imposing, but they do make it more interesting, and seem to highlight aspects of the environment that I would quite literally have overlooked. The exhibition also poses questions about the what, the how and the why of painting, in other words about how abstract painting functions as well as what its function might be.

Form/Function, curated by Lisa Denyer and Matthew Macaulay, continues at Piccadilly Place Manchester until Sunday 22 September
Exhibition open: Saturdays and Sundays 12 – 6pm, or by appointment. Contact: lisadenyer84@hotmail.com

At “Now You See It Now You Don’t”

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Now You See It Now You Don’t, the 8th Terrace annual, is a one day only event, curated by Karl Bielik, it’s as whacky as they come, and amazing.  On a warm sunny afternoon/evening in late August,  4-17 Frederick Terrace, London, becomes this delightful space for looking at art, socialising and listening  to music.

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Over the last six years 162 different artists have shown over 300 pieces of work in this now transformed, former wasteland. Exposed to the elements the works have shifted, faded, broken, rotted, remained and in some cases, disappeared. This year 64 artists have added new work.

In Lisa Denyer‘s painting, I feel sure that the watery stains, complementing harder straight lines, were in the finished piece before it was exposed to the elements. However, the possibility that they could be the result of weathering seems so right.

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Similarly, in a 12″ x 12″ painting by Stephen Macinnis a red paint run that was likely there already, could conceivably have happened as a result of this unique hang.

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There are works old and new by Karl Bielik

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…a new one from Terry Greene

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…and an Andrew Seto painting that has been here at least a year continues to look good. Painted in oils, I probably shouldn’t be surprised that it holds up against the outdoors, but what’s disconcerting is that such a lovely a painting is is so mercilessly delivered up to the elements.

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From the slight damage to the canvas along the lower edge, I suspect that Valerie Brennan‘s painting has been here a while, but the image itself, the glossy quality of the paint and the brightness of colour looks undiminished.

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…and the Paul Behnke looks vibrant and even on paper or card seems quite robust.

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The wonderful, thickly-painted feast of colour by Susan Carr must surely be just as vivid now as it when it was hung, and long may it continue to look this good. An old friend of mine used to judge paintings by how much he wanted to eat them. I suspect that Carr’s painting here would have matched his criteria amply.

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The delightful metal collage by Michigan artist  Tom Duimistra weathers particularly well

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Charlie Bonallack‘s framed image of a caravan parked outside the Duke of Cambridge pub is a continuing work. Each year a photo of the previous year’s entry is added. It is first dusted in a material resembling sugar or salt. The oldest is the clearest of the three, the newest being almost all white. It could be that as the salt decomposes the image becomes clearer, almost the reverse of the natural weathering process, and if that’s not actually what’s going on, it’s a good enough myth to want to perpetuate it.

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I ask Leslie Greene about her intriguing vertical diptych (centre in the photo below) and discover that she has prepared her painting for a dialogue with the rain. The top half of the diptych features written lines of poetry about rain, its surface being punctuated by vertical strips of sellotape, which will decompose, whilst directing rainwater downwards in straight lines. The image on the lower panel is a photograph of a larger painting/collage that incorporates a broken umbrella into the canvas.

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my own piece is canvas stuck to board…

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and though it’s new to the exhibition, it already shows signs of wearing, along the top edge in the centre, two pieces of canvas seem to be pulling apart. How could I have ever thought that PVA glue would be tough in these conditions? Over time perhaps the canvas will come away from the support completely, leaving just the mount, something I really hadn’t envisaged until now!

There’s something mildly perverse or morbid about this show. I think part of the motivation for making art is the desire for “immortality” or at the least, in Alfred Korzybski’s parlance “time binding”, yet here the art decomposes (not quite) in front of our own eyes. Didn’t the Futurists think of museums as graveyards? Here, as autumn approaches, modern and contemporary works take their place in a graveyard that resembles a museum, and whether they like it or not, they all become memento mori.

The full list of artists:
Julie Alexander, Sara Aisha Amido, Karen Ay, Uta Baldauf, Paul Behnke, Beard and Ferguson, Eleanor Bennett, Maxine Beuret, Diane Bielik, Karl Bielik, James Blackburn, Kiera Blakey, Anka Bogacz, Brigitte Boldy, Charlie Bonallack, Alex Booker, Ronan Bowes, Boyle&Shaw, Nina Branhauser, Valerie Brennan, Anna Bruinsma, Rebecca Byrne, Matt Cahill, Eve Campbell, Susan Carr, Lucy Mink Covello, Bimba Champion, Alicia Clarke, Oliver Crowther, Roberta Cucuzza, Annabelle Dalby, Lawrence Daley, Annie Davey, Rosie De Borman, Julia Defferary, Lisa Denyer, Ludovic Dervillez, Pravin Dewdhory, Maria Doohan, Tom Duimstra, Brian Edmonds, Liz Elton, Robert Otto Epstein, Anne-Marie Fairbrother, Rob Flowers, Adrian Galpin, Patrick Galway, Yifat Gat, Sanna-Lisa Gesang-Gottowt, Matthew Neil Gehring, Mira Gerard, Max Gimson, Matthew Golden, Leslie Greene, Terry Greene, Philip Hall-Patch, Robert Hall, Julia Hamilton, Ross Hansen, Rupert Hartley, Michele Hemsoth, Aimie Herbert, Alex Hermon, Russell Heron, Gabriele Herzog, Dan Holliday, Jan Holtoff, Rebecca Hooper, George Horner, Christopher Hudson, Zarah Hunt, Jessica Jang, Helen Jarvis, Elina Jokipii, Nica Junker, Eemyun Kang, Ralph Kietwitz, Susannah King, Yoonjung Kim, Josh Knowles, James Lambert, Lindsey Landfried, David Leapman, Ron Levin, Caterina Lewis, Meg Lipke, Andrea Lippet, Susan Lizotte, Heidi Locher, Vibeke Luther, Stephen B. Maciniss, Nerys Mathias, Julia Maddison, Andrew Maughan, Tony Mcateer, Fay Mccloskey, Andrea Medjesi-Jones, Julie Miranda, Lorna Milburn, David T Miller, Nicola Morrison, Andrea Muendelein, Ryan Muldowney, Hannah Murgatroyd, Danka Nisevic, Emer O’Brien, Martin O’Neil, Susan Overell, Natalie Papageorgiadis, Melanie Parke, Andrew Parkinson, Cathleen Parra, Christopher Peabody, Joanna Peace, Grant Petrey, Caroline Piccioni, Velvet Zoe Ramos, Shirome Ratne, George Riley, Jon Riley, Dan Roach, Andy Robertson, Matthew Robinson, Will Robson-Scott, Anne Rusinoff, Rachel Russell, Cheryl Saunders, Matthew Saunders, Julie Schwartz, Gert Scheerlinck, Frances Scott, Andrew Seto, Ariane Severin, Jennifer Sheperd, Jason Shulman, Emma-Jane Spain, Lili Spain, Marianne Spurr, Richard Stone, Madeleine Strindberg, Martha Thorn, Sabine Tress, Sophie Tomlinson, Emily Trotter, Lee Tusman, Claire Undy, Marijke Vasey, Georgina Vinsun, Maxwell Wade, Julian Wakelin, Tobias Wenzel, Ian White Williams, James White, Emma-Jane Whitton, Tarn Willers, Phil Wise, Retts Wood, Katherine Worthington, Elizabeth Wright, Stephen Wright and Blair Zaye