patternsthatconnect

abstract art, a systems view

Posts Tagged ‘Swansea

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…

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.

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Written by Andy Parkinson

July 10, 2011 at 6:18 am

in the Attic

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A few hundred yards from my hotel in Swansea (see yesterday blog), there is the Attic Gallery, apparently Wales’ longest established private gallery.

Attic attic gallery

The Attic website says that the gallery “was founded in 1962 to highlight the work of contemporary artists working in Wales.” I think the word ‘contemporary’ here refers to ‘living and working today’ as opposed to ‘modern’ or, in more recent usage, ‘more modern than modern’, which may also imply ‘post-modern’ and ‘having “high Art” pretensions’. I wouldn’t describe the work on show at Attic using these other definitions of the word ‘contemporary’.

I saw paintings by Kathryn Le Grice. I liked them. Here’s an image of one the paintings in the show, (on until Saturday 2 July), Central Park NY (Bridge II) . Painted in 2010/11, I understand that is is more typical of her earlier work.

Kathryn Le Grice, Central Park, NY (Bridge II), mixed media, 17.5 x 23 ins,image courtesy of Attic Gallery

And here is another, more typical of later work, Circle of Trees.

Kathryn Le Grice, Circle of Trees, acrylic, 11.5 x 7 ins, image by courtesy of Attic Gallery

Both these paintings, like all her work in this show, are abstract in the sense of ‘abstracted from’. (If my memory is correct Harold Osborne uses the term ‘semantic abstraction’ for this type of abstraction, which is actually a form of representation, as opposed to ‘syntactic’ or ‘non-iconic abstraction’ for work that claims to represent nothing other than itself. In the late 70s, when he was writing about this, I think the distinction might have mattered more than it seems to do today.)

Le Grice abstracts from nature and architecture “the patterns which form part of our everyday world” making paintings in acrylic or mixed media, that are quite modest in size. The forms she paints inhabit a shallow, cubist-like space, if I have the chronology correct many of the later works are larger in size.

Circle of Trees is a later painting, but small at less than 12″ in either direction. It is the stained-glass-like luminosity of the colour that impresses me. Even from a distance it looks bright. It is reminiscent of a Rouault, with the thick black lines adding to both the stained-glass look and to the luminosity of the colours, arranged in complementaries of green/red and blue/orange.  It has a rhythm based on a central diagonal line around which the tree shapes seem to curve, creating a single arabesque shape.

It is supposed to be decorative, and it is! Decorative is a bad word in some circles. It’s not a bad word for me. And not for the circle of trees either!