patternsthatconnect

abstract art, a systems view

Posts Tagged ‘sculpture

Rest and motion at Castleford Civic Centre

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Piet Mondrian suggested that humanity seeks rest within motion, or “repose through movement”[1] and he found an example of it in dance, referring possibly to the foxtrot, he said “each movement is immediately neutralized by a countermovement which signifies the search for equilibrium”[2].

Taking part in the ISTD dance medallist competition (ballroom, latin and sequence) at Castleford Civic Centre on 11 March, I thought that my own foxtrot seemed to have too much repose and not enough movement! Maybe I was feeling too relaxed after looking at the Henry Moore reclining figure on the way into the centre.

 

The reclining figure figures a lot in Henry Moore’s oeuvre, and he donated this one in 1980 to Castleford, the town where he was born, the Civic Centre having been officially opened a decade earlier on 24 March 1970.

 

The Civic Centre, a fine example of modernist architecture, designed by Derek Goad, is an optimistic looking building if ever I saw one, even now when it seems to reflect an optimism about the future that is a situated in the modernist period, when perhaps we believed more honestly in “a steady advance from the poor environment of the past to the more pleasant and brighter surroundings of the future”[3]. One of the features of the building is its facing in precast concrete panels manufactured from a limestone aggregate chosen for its weathering properties: “it has been found to get naturally lighter in colour with exposure to the atmosphere so counteracting the darkening process caused by the atmosphere itself”[4]. Apart from the darkening beneath the windows this hope, this countermovement does seem to have been realised.

 

I find it a hopeful place also by association, because of the activity (medallist competition dancing) for which I have been here a few times now. I go in filled with hope anyway! Sometimes I come out feeling even better than when I went in, other times less so. I first started to become interested in the building when I looked across the dancefloor/theatre and saw the wall sculpture, comissioned for the opening in 1970, silent, static, yet visually rhythmic (movement through repose perhaps). The dynamic rhythms of the dancefloor seem to be echoed in the sculptural forms.

The artist is Diana Dean, who was working with abstract geometric form in both painting and sculpture at the time, and the work, made in stainless steel, is entitled Symmetry in Opposition. I could wonder to what extent the title also echoes that idea of equilibrium found in the Mondrian quote above. Dean explained to me that at first the two projected squares were facing inwards with two corners touching, and then this changed to the outward projection which is why she called it Symmetry in Opposition.

Here are some photo’s of what it looked like in 1970.

 

I wonder if I also find Mondrian’s notion of the neutralisation of opposites in the contrast between the stasis of the final form Vs the activity of its making.

Dean moved to Canada in 1975, where she focused on painting and moved away from abstraction, the geometry hidden, as it were, within the structure, supporting the figuration. When I contacted her recently she replied saying “I felt it was quite synchronistic to receive your email this week as I had just begun a portrait painting with geometric patterning appearing in the carpet and all perspective lines in the room going to the left eye of the sitter. Maybe I am moving towards a new form of geometric abstraction again”[5].

A psychological reading might suggest that we are witnessing a “return of the repressed”.

(Thanks to Diana Dean and Derek Goad for supplying information and pictures for this blog post)


[1] Piet Mondrian. ‘Natural Reality and Abstract Reality: an essay in Trialogue Form’ (1919-1920) in Mondrian:

Natural Reality and Abstract Reality edited by Martin James (1995) p.27 quoted in Dancing with Mondrian by Annette Chauncy, in The International Journal of the Arts in Society vol 5, no.3

[2] Piet Mondrian. ‘The New Plastic in Painting’ (1917) in The New Life the New Art – Collected writings of Piet

Mondrian edited by Harry Holtzman & Martin James (1987). P.43, quoted in Dancing with Mondrian by Annette Chauncy, in The International Journal of the Arts in Society vol 5, no.3

[3] Opening ceremony brochure

[4] Opening ceremony brochure

[5] Personal email from the artist

Now that is scale!

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Yesterday, I was thinking about reducing the scale of my work from a modest 4′ x 4′ to a prudish 4″ x 6″. I think I have noticed a trend towards working on a smaller scale in painting. Perhaps in times of ecomomic downturn it is to be expected. Not for Clare Woods, whose gigantic abstract landscapes can be seen at Hepworth, Wakefield until 29 January 2012.

You can see the connection to Barbara Hepworth in the landscape and figure references, figures that is of stone, “natural” sculpture. The paintings seem to explore the relationship between abstraction and figuration, the way that we read into “abstract” objects like rock formations, images of human forms, and the way that we can also see a represented form as an abstract one (“before a paintings is anything else it is first and foremost a blank surface covered with colours in varying patterns” – J.A.M Whistler).

It is difficult not to read this as a scull,

and am I right to see it as a reference to that particular anamorphic skull in The Ambassadors by Holbein?

And though there are unambigous references to rock formations and their fugural associations here, this painting asserts itself first and foremost as …. etc etc

Written by Andy Parkinson

January 8, 2012 at 8:45 am

Six Forms by Barbara Hepworth

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At the Hepworth, Wakefield over the holidays I saw this piece by Barabara Hepworth entitled Six Forms.

Written by Andy Parkinson

January 5, 2012 at 8:45 am

Aeneas Wilder Unitled # 155 at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

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Aeneas Wilder’s Unitled # 155 is showing at the Longside Gallery at Yorkshire Sculpture Park until Thursday 3 November 2011. It is an installation, made especially for this space, constructed through the careful placement and balance of uniform lengths of recycled Iroko wood, used for parquet flooring.

There is something architectural about it, temporary and delicate but architectural just the same. You can see it from a (slight) distance, you can see it close-up and then walk around it and you can enter it through a doorway, seeing it from inside and out like a building. But it isn’t held together by anything other than balance and gravity, no glue, no nails, no permanent fixing. So it is also time dependant, like a performance, it will exist for a certain time, and to end the installation the artist will deconstruct it in only a few seconds, the final curtain close taking the form of a kick down.

 

You can reserve a place for the kick down scheduled to take place at 4pm on 3 November.

Written by Andy Parkinson

September 19, 2011 at 8:00 am

Rachael Pinks at Wirksworth Festival

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Some lovely abstract paintings by artist and fellow art blogger Rachael Pinks were on show in the old Grammar School at Wirksworth Festival last weekend.

I say paintings because that’s largely how I experienced them. It may be more accurate to say collages. There is something sculptural about them too, though they are tiny, nearly all works on paper less than 12″ tall, mounted in frames in such a way that you can see the whole object, including the edges. The shape of each piece looks arrived at by the very process of collaging small pieces of painted paper rather than by staying within the confines of a predetermined shape and size. They seem constructed or modelled, so the completed object is never an exact rectangle, it is irregular, handmade.

Rachael Pinks, My Hill, Acrylic and collage on paper, 13 x 12.5cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

Bits of writing show through where collage elements are painted on printed word, I thought newsprint but Rachael tells me they are books.

I find myself reading them as landscapes or seascapes, and some of the titles encourage this, though the images usually find themselves in the process of being painted, rather than in a resemblance of an actual place. ‘Real world’ starting points are more in the artist’s kinaesthetic system than the visual.

The bits of text, in an indirect way, refer to place, and to the artist’s personal history, in that they are taken from three very small poetry books, printed in 1820, seen on the way home one night when walking past in a well-known book shop in Cromford. “These old books just appealed to me when I saw them: the battered covers made me think they had been used and loved”.

Rachael Pinks, Sat Below an Almost Cloudless Sky, Acrylic and Collage on Canvas, 14cm x 19cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

I don’t know why I like it, that in Sat Below an Almost Cloudless Sky I can just make out the word “Rebellion” in capitals near the bottom right of the picture. My wife is sure that it is a picture of a boat, and I can see why. Though it has no such referential specificity, it is difficult not to see the sea in the left hand blue, with the hull of a blue boat at bottom centre, green hills higher up, along with pale sky in which is just one small cloud. I think the title refers to this reading-in, rather than to any ‘a priori’ content.

My favourite is Curled Up

Rachael Pinks, Curled up, Acrylic and Collage on Paper, 14 x 19cm. Image by courtesy the artist

A tiny edge of printed word curls away from the picture plane, whilst beneath the line it creates, a yellow triangle floats in an abstract landscape with figures, that are clearly not figures or landscape but painted, torn and cut paper arranged intuitively to form a charming miniature, intriguing and beautiful.

Written by Andy Parkinson

September 15, 2011 at 8:01 am

Flailing Trees by Gustav Metzger

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Visiting Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, can’t be done without bumping into these upside-down weeping willows, 21 in all, set in concrete, an art work by Gustav Metzger, entitled Flailing Trees.

 

An example of ‘auto-destructive’ art, it will self destruct in who knows how many seconds. Well, it was made nearly three years ago and one of the trees has fallen. That happened about three weeks ago.

Written by Andy Parkinson

September 4, 2011 at 9:20 am

The straight curves of Aeneas Wilder

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At the Longside Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Aeneas Wilder has installed Untitled # 155, which I will post about another day. In the side gallery there is this Untitled Drawing (2011), a mandala shape made of carefully placed straight strips of wood (they remind me of lollypop sticks)

straight means, curved ends!

Written by Andy Parkinson

September 2, 2011 at 7:32 am