abstract art, a systems view

Posts Tagged ‘Stephen B MacInnis

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

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.


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.


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.


There are works old and new by Karl Bielik


…a new one from Terry Greene


…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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.


my own piece is canvas stuck to board…


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