abstract art, a systems view

Posts Tagged ‘Mission Gallery

Live out Loud! The paintings of Jane Phillips

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Live out Loud is the title of the exhibition now showing at Mission Gallery in Swansea, celebrating the creativity, life and achievements of Mission Gallery’s first director Jane Philips (1957 – 2011).

If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, I will answer you: ‘I am here to live out loud’.

Emile Zola

These wonderful colour-drenched abstract paintings, do seem a lot like celebrations of life. In a previous post I reflected on the idea that the job of the artist is to make painting live. Jane Phillips knew how to do that. She also knew how to study. The exhibition includes a case of sketchbooks, just a few of the many that she kept, with some of their contents displayed. Some, based on Josef Albers’ simultaneous colour contrast exercises that many of us did at art school, are in one sense ordinary, and in another sense extraordinarily beautiful. I couldn’t pull myself away from the 6″ x 6″ colour and black and white studies. Even the “black and white” ones are about colour.

The large canvases are lovely, yet my favourite of the paintings is modest in size and looks a lot like a formal study.

Jane Phillips, Geometric - Green, Acrylic on Canvas, 75 x 73 cm, Image by courtesy of Mission Gallery

The series of vertical bars of colour seem to be overlaid by different coloured horizontal bands thus changing the colours underneath. But when you get up close it is really difficult to tell whether the bands create the colour changes or whether, in fact, the rectangles making up the horizontal bands are actually painted directly with those different colours, giving only the impression of translucent bands.

I studied it long and hard and I couldn’t work out whether the bands caused the colour changes or whether colour changes were the cause of the bands. I liked that the artist’s study had elicited studious behaviour in me the viewer. And it wasn’t just study, it was also enjoyment. The painting is decorative, which I think corresponds to enjoyment, and thoughtful, corresponding to studiousness. This kind of pleasurable studying reminds me that I am alive: I think therefore I am. The painting is a call to study and to enjoy – a call to live out loud.

(Mission gallery have a WordPress blog at

Written by Andy Parkinson

August 15, 2011 at 7:10 am

Second star to the right and straight on until…

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In my continued quest to find abstract art outside of London, I find myself in the centre of Swansea, where, opposite the Dylan Thomas Theatre,

dylan thomas

just a few hundred yards from my Hotel, I discover…


the Mission Gallery, once a seaman’s mission, now a bodacious space (dude) for contemporary art.

There will be abstract paintings here from late in July. And right now there is a most excellent show of sculpture by Ben Rowe entitled Second star to the Right and Straight on Until Morning. If you know that the directions to Neverland referred to here, are also quoted in one of the Star Trek movies, then you are very likely to get all the other references in this exhibition. The sculptures are themed on popular sci-fi/fantasy films, mostly from the 1980’s, films I loved too, like Back to the Future and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

Entering the gallery I am struck first by the light in what would have once been a church sanctuary, and then by the smell. Incense? No, MDF – the material from which these sculptures are crafted.

mission gallery

Mission gallery, Ben Rowe, Second star to the right and straight on until morning, courtesy of the artist and Mission Gallery

Batteries are not Included, is a keyboard with wires from it attached to a totem-like object. The reference is not to the Disney film of the same name, but to Masters of the Universe, the art work being a replica of the ‘mysterious cosmic key’.

In the centre of the dome shaped sanctuary is the time-travelling phone box from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, reproduced in MDF monochrome, looking like all the colour has been drained out of it, as it is just about the de-materialise.

Bogus Flux

Ben Rowe, In a Constant State of Bogus Flux, 2010, reclaimed MDF, Image by courtesy of the artist and Mission Gallery

The sculptures in this show are modes of transport, as simple as a door or a portal or more complex like the flux capacitor or the time-travelling phone box. And they are sculptural metaphors for art, as a means of escape into an alternative reality. The gallery space, whilst existing in the ‘real world’ at the same time presents a door into another one.

There is something ironic in the reproduction of hi-tech gadgets, looking so plausibly like they would be capable of transporting us to impossible locations, yet so clearly in MDF:  even if the ‘real’ versions were able to do so, the replicas lack any such potency.

To borrow Elull‘s terms, mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, are the artworks imitations of a (fictitious) technology, itself both imitation and compensation for (real) technology?

Second Star to the Right and Straight on Until Morning is showing at Mission Gallery until 24 July 2011.

Written by Andy Parkinson

July 10, 2011 at 6:18 am