patternsthatconnect

abstract art, a systems view

Posts Tagged ‘sculpture

Rest and motion at Castleford Civic Centre

with 2 comments

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!

with 3 comments

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

with 2 comments

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

leave a comment »

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

with 2 comments

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

with 2 comments

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

with one comment

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

James Turrell at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

with 11 comments

I love Deer Shelter Skyspace, 2006 by James Turrell, at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. It is a large square chamber with an aperture cut into the roof, through which you get a “heightened vision of the sky, seemingly transformed into a trompe l’oeil painting”.
 

I interpret it as a hallowed space, I feel the necessity to speak in hushed tones when I am in there, and I notice that others seem to do so too. However, today, asking others about their experience I realise that this is not universally so. I was going to suggest that the sacred space is always an aesthetic (immanent) rather than a spiritual (transcendent) experience.

When I visited today, my brother pointed out that rain had caused the Skyspace to be ‘mirrored’ on the ground. My gaze was so directed towards the sky that I had not seen it before.

Written by Andy Parkinson

September 1, 2011 at 7:52 am

Second star to the right and straight on until…

leave a comment »

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…

mission

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

In the garden at Hepworth Wakefield

with one comment

In the garden (misty wet with rain) at The Hepworth is The Upper Mill, 2011, by James Pyman. It’s a drawing of the Upper Mill, scaled up and wrapped around the actual Upper Mill building. (Click on the photo for a full size image.)

upper mill

James Pyman, The Upper Mill, 2011, The Hepworth Wakefield

The map is not the territory, the territory is not even the territory, but it is wrapped around it.

Written by Andy Parkinson

June 4, 2011 at 8:37 am