patternsthatconnect

abstract art, a systems view

Posts Tagged ‘Marion Piper

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.

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At the First Clash, Alex Dewart, Marion Piper and Lindall Pearce at Surface Gallery

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At First Clash, Installation shot at Private View. Image by courtesy of Surface Gallery

At First Clash, Installation shot at Private View. Image by courtesy of Surface Gallery

At first sight the works of Alex Dewart, Lindall Pearce and Marion Piper, currently featured in the exhibition At the First Clash at Surface Gallery, Nottingham, are highly dissimilar, a clash of styles and approaches whose relationship to one another is symmetrical rather than complementary. However, a Twitter comment by Gill Gregory suggests she finds as much confluence or convergence as collision. Perhaps as soon as disparate practices are brought together in a shared space the similarities and interconnections become apparent, even when it’s difference that we’re celebrating. In the excellent essay by Maggie Gray, which accompanies the exhibition, she proposes that these three artists find commonality in “their awareness and manipulation of surfaces”. I wonder if what unites them is the clash of opposites (and possible reconciliation) that occurs in each of their works.

Alex Dewart

Alex Dewart, Pelle (Skin), 2014, Oil on printed cotton. 30 x 40cm, Image by courtesy of the artist.

In Dewart’s paintings, highly coloured flat patterns clash with illusionistic grey monochrome figures. The figures are context-less, appearing to have weight and volume yet they float in space against high colour backgrounds that clamour for attention. Elements of the pattern sometimes occupy positions in front of or on the same plane as the grey figures. In Pelle (Skin), a leaf motif breaks free from the ground and touches the left shoulder of an armoured figure. Visually there are cues to suggest that the figure is seated on a horse, even though there is no horse shown. Where the horse’s mane might be the pattern appears to push spatially forward of the figure, almost describing the horse’s neck.

Alex Dewart, Verdi sul Verde, 2014, oil on printed cotton, 40cm x 50cm. Image by courtesy of Surface Gallery

Alex Dewart, Verdi sul Verde, 2014, oil on printed cotton, 40x 50cm. Image by courtesy of Surface Gallery

I find myself searching for meanings that a context might provide, and in lieu of evidence I do what we all do in such situations, I make stuff up. So I consider the grey figures to be statues and I speculatively suggest to myself that, for example, Verdi sul Verde may show a statue of Giuseppe Verdi (really!) against a green floral ground, “Verdi on the green”, a way of being “green on green” that isn’t abstract in the sense of “non-representational”, but quite abstract in the sense of “levels of abstraction” i.e. as opposed to direct sensory experience. In other words, I am required to interpret, linguistically or conceptually if you will, in order to make sense of what I am looking at.

The kind of interpretation required when viewing paintings by Marion Piper is nearer to the pre-linguistic, or perceptual. The experience of ‘clash’ is between differing styles (e.g. painterly or gestural vs. geometric), as well as of competing interpretations of geometric gestalts. Rather than consciously thinking through potential meanings I just keep seeing the arrangement differently, sometimes seeing depth for example, and other times seeing flat shapes. It’s as if the interpreting takes place in the eye/brain, rather than in the mind.

Marion

Marion Piper, Or To 6, 2014, acrylic and oil on canvas, 46cm x 60cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

I first saw paintings by Piper at the Crossing Lines exhibition, earlier this year at &Model Gallery, where I noted that in her Free Man series she appeared to be combining an organic, free-flowing, process with geometry. There’s some of that going on here at the Surface Gallery exhibition in her Or To series, where fluid grey markings (not quite poured, more like staining) clash with measured geometric shapes, but the clash is suppressed perhaps, in that it exists beneath multiple layers, only traces showing through. It’s almost as if the geometry has succeeded in bringing order to the more chaotic, near gestural activity beneath the surface. Or is it that those liquid gestures actually construct the hard edged structures, the outlines being “filled in” with paint whilst in this fluid condition? It’s difficult to tell. The process is evident but not enough to reliably reconstitute it step by step. I can guess at it, but I have little confidence that my guessing matches any of the events that actually took place on the canvas.

Marion Piper, Or To 9, 2014, Acrylic, Oil and Pen on Canvas, 61 x 46cm. Image by courtesy of the artist.

Marion Piper, Or To 9, 2014, Acrylic, Oil and Pen on Canvas, 61 x 46cm. Image by courtesy of the artist.

In Or To 9, illusionistic space is posited along the bottom edge, take the zig zagging triangles away and the alternate bars or stripes of light and dark grey no longer look three dimensional. The triangles lead us to see the stripes as mountain and valley folds, a concertina formation, with a light source from the left. At least two readings compete with each other in an unresolvable conflict. Though contradictory, we believe both interpretations are equally true, not simultaneously but sequentially, first it’s this and then it’s that and next it’s this again, perhaps reminiscent of wave-particle duality in quantum physics. Whatever reading we come to first, we have to concede that “the opposite is also true”.

In the works here by Lindall Pearce the clash is between artwork and arbitrary object, everyday objects being combined to produce highly attractive assemblages. They draw from the tradition of the “ready-made”, but in the end they are not ready-mades, there’s too much craft for that. It could even be that the tradition is turned back on itself by the reintroduction of facture. Nevertheless, the banal object never become so much an artwork that it loses its thingness, nor does the art ever lapse back into banal utilitarian function.

Lindall Pearce, Chroma Chameleon, 2014, Mixed Media, Dimensions Variable, Image by courtesy of Surface Gallery

Lindall Pearce, Chroma Chameleon, 2014, Mixed Media, Dimensions Variable, Image by courtesy of Surface Gallery

In Chroma Chameleon, adjustable shaving mirrors (I think) are arranged on a black and white striped, painted table top, the mirror glasses having been replaced or painted over, with coloured circles. Even though they do retain some of their reflectiveness they no longer function specifically as mirrors. They create an interesting array of angles, planes and colours and subvert the original purposes of both table and mirrors. Come to think of it, I am now doubting whether “assemblage” is the best label for this and other works by Pearce in this show. In an assemblage don’t pre-existing, unrelated objects get placed together? Yet it looks to me as if Pearce works on her objects and then also makes something else out of them, which possibly brings them closer to “constructions”. (In pondering this distinction I am following a conversation between Peter Lowe and Katrina Blannin recently reported by Blannin in a review at Abstract Critical.)

Looking at the works of these three artists, I think I discover resonance in their appreciation of clashes of opposites, whether two dimensional pattern vs. three dimensional figuration in Dewart, opposing gestalts in Piper or readymade vs. construction in Pearce. Furthermore, they seem unwilling to resolve the contradictions by favouring one position over another. Instead, they hold both sides of the argument in tension, and only then does some form of reconciliation take place. Could it be that the title of the exhibition would be better rendered with a comma after the word “First” so that it would read “At the First, Clash” (to begin with a clash and only then reconciliation)?   Tongue firmly in cheek, if I wanted to give this a theological slant, following Karl Barth, I might insist that the divine “no” always precedes the divine “yes”, or if I wanted to sound more political I might echo that other Karl as well as that old band The Clash: “There’s got to be a Clash, there’s no alternative”.

 

At the First Clash is on at Surface Gallery until 12 July 2014

Written by Andy Parkinson

July 1, 2014 at 11:12 pm

Crossing Lines @ &Model

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I arrive very late in the day (both literally and metaphorically) for the amazing exhibition Crossing Lines, at &Model in Leeds, and being my first visit to this venue I am immediately  impressed both by its central Leeds location, opposite the Art Gallery and Town Hall, and by the space itself, occupying all three floors of a 19th century building. Just looking through the window the work looks great and I am relieved that someone has waited for me so I can see the whole show.

I learn from the gallery notes that “The sixteen artists presented by Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hanz Hancock … all share reductive, formal, or non-objective approaches to image making”. It occurs to me that what we mean by labels like abstraction is as difficult to situate now as ever, and perhaps more so now because contemporary practitioners may well be doing something quite different than its early proponents. I usually hesitate to use the word “reductive”connoting, for me, a paring down to essentials, or a search for essence as well as a lessening, and I find myself unwilling to think of the concentration on process or form as in any way a lack. Seeing the work on show here, if ever I needed proof of the vitality of contemporary abstract/reductive/formal etc, approaches it is here in abundance.

Installation shot showing works by, from left to right, Patrick Morrisey, Andrew Harrison, David Riley, Patrick Morrissey

I am even tempted to propose the word additive, wondering if, contrary to a “paring down” we get instead a “building up”, adding new objects/images to the world, objects and images that continue to be as challenging and interesting as the abstraction of 100 years ago.

Drawing on the constructivist tradition, Morrisey and Hancock pursue a systems approach, as do others here like David Riley and possibly Giulia Ricci and  Andrew Harrison. Because I know that Morrisey’s paintings and videos (the video Four States, shown here is mesmerizing), are based on numerical systems, I attempt to work them out and fairly quickly reach the limit of my ability to do so without an external prompt. It’s one of the things that fascinates me about number in relation to images: attempting to “break the code”, is a specific mode of viewing, or state, that seems different to the one I engage in when I give up the attempt and simply look. And simply looking I appreciate the beauty of the image: I “get” the beauty of the abstract relations even without being able to translate them (back) into the numerical code. I think what’s going on here is akin to the pleasure I get from listening to Bach.

Patrick Morrissey, The Queen is Dead, 2011. Image by courtesy of the artist

Patrick Morrissey, The Queen is Dead, 2011. Image by courtesy of the artist

Looking at Tower, by Clive Hanz Hancock, I become unclear about what is image and what is object, I know it’s a relief, constructed from plastic tubing arranged in a vertical grid, yet it seems flat, I even begin to wonder whether the plastic tubing is a trompe l’oeil effect. What’s coming into question for me here is what I know, and how I know it: “how much of this construction is “out there” and how much of it is “in here” and realizing that it’s the interplay, that constitutes the art work. Here aesthetics and epistemology meet.

Clive Hanz Hancock, Tower, 2013. Image by courtesy of the artist

Clive Hanz Hancock, Tower, 2013. Image by courtesy of the artist

David Riley’s Code, is a series of digital images printed on sheets of paper, presented like brochures, and held together with plastic binding combs, the combs becoming part of the overall image. I read it as a painting, whilst simultaneously seeing printed digital material, and again I believe that the image is based on a numerical or alphabetical code that I struggle to decode. It’s the very act of looking that I think is being deconstructed in the process of viewing this piece.

David Riley, Code, 2013-14, multiple materials installation, 33 x 180 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

David Riley, Code, 2013-14, multiple materials installation, 33 x 180 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

There’s something architectural about Riley’s image, as there is in the works of Andrew Harrison (entitled Construction Project 3 and  Construction Project 4) and Clive Hanz Hancock. In these pieces it’s the boundary or extension of abstraction, that comes to mind, as it does in many of the paintings here that almost approach figuration as in Mary Yacoob‘s Doodle Drawings, and the painting Low Down by Daniel Sturgis from his Boulders series, where changes of scale seem to create vast spaces and where abstract image becomes slightly humorous, perhaps referencing the cartoon, a kind of abstract pop art?

Daniel Sturgis, Low Down, 2013

Daniel Sturgis, Low Down, 2013

Vincent Hawkins’ paintings and works on paper are probably the most provisional of the works on show here and possibly Tom McGlynn’s Signal the most minimal, if such labels are not too misleading. Likening Hancock’s and Morrissey’s sculptural pieces, colour intervals on wood strips leaned against the wall, to John McCraken‘s minimalist work is I am sure also misleading but a connection I find difficult not to make. There are sculptural pieces here also by Mick Frangou, Phill Hopkins and Andy Wicks, all that seem to at least quote minimalism whilst also expanding it, Hopkins ans Wicks exploring the border between the two and three dimensional as well the border between art and everyday objects and Frangou continuing his personal process of repeating a T shape symbol.

Marion Piper paintings here from her Free Man series are marvelous. I have the impression that her process in these paintings involves a dialectical pairing of opposing forces that are held together by overlaying one upon the other, as if something suggestive of the organic (wavy lines or soft free-flowing motifs) is overlaid with ‘harder’ geometric designs, resulting in a synthesis which is both and neither the other two, “transcending them” sounds too metaphysical, and “combining them” sounds too prosaic, but in viewing the paintings I enter a state in which these opposing positions seem to be held in stasis, not just visually, but also psychologically.

Installation shot, Left to right: Marion Piper, Free Man 3, Marion Piper, Free Man 4, Patrick Morrisey, Indirect Enquiry 2, Front: Mark Frangou, Tome

Installation shot, Left to right: Marion Piper, Free Man 3, Marion Piper, Free Man 4, Patrick Morrissey, Indirect Enquiry 2, Front: Mark Frangou, Tome

I think something similar takes place in relation to Giulia Ricci’s beautifully executed drawings where a carefully ordered design begins to break down, or a pattern is systematically interrupted, the tracing of which, by eye and mind, seems to create a shift of state. This mildly “calming” experience is repeated for me in many different ways in this show, Frixos Papantoniou appearing to suspend geometric (mostly triangular) shapes in a contemplative space, David Leapman getting close to psychedelia, and Mark Sengsbusch presenting dualisms that are entirely matter of fact, (he describes them as “two-color painting(s) where there is no background or foreground. No layering. All of the paint is equa-distant to your eye”),  yet the viewing of them is psychologically complex.

Installation shot, Mark Sengsbusch, Right: Comb 15 (Anaemic Shield), 2011, Left Comb 9 (Frozen Reel), 2011

Installation shot, Mark Sengsbusch, Left: Comb 15 (Anaemic Shield), 2011, Right: Comb 9 (Frozen Reel), 2011

And perhaps that’s what I want to say most about this exhibition of contemporary reductive art: there is nothing “reduced” in the action of seeing these works, I experience more of an “addition”, a “fulness”, an “abundance”.

Crossing Lines was on show at &Model from 23 January to 22 February 2014. I just wish I’d got there sooner!