abstract art, a systems view

Posts Tagged ‘Tarpey Gallery

Richard Devereux, Continuous Now at Tarpey Gallery

with 3 comments

It already seems like an age since I bumped into a few friends at the PV of the Richard Devereux exhibition Continuous Now, at Tarpey Gallery, though it was only November. There is much debate about the work on show, mostly a fascination with the “how” rather than the more contemplative mode that I had expected. They’re enchanting paintings that probably aren’t paintings at all, and that’s part of what gets us into conversation before each work: “what is it?” not in the sense of “what does it represent?” but “what is this thing that I am looking at and how was it made?” They didn’t drop out of the sky that’s for sure but were they actually touched by human hands? They almost approach the acheiropoiesis of certain byzantine icons, that were supposedly made “not with human hands”. Their method of production, though it is clear that they were brought about by some process of making, is unfathomable, at least to me, and to those gathered at the PV, each of us offering our speculations, maybe they are printed, or possibly the process is close to photography. I get up really close to see if there is texture and if the smaller marks are really marks at all, much as one might check whether an image is a reproduction. I am searching for clues as to how the work is made. I take my glasses off and put them back on again. I look from the side and from the front, at different distances, and I am still unsure. Even when I decide one thing I later change my mind.

Richard Devereux, One Morning We'll Slip Into A Harbour We Have Never Known, (After Olav H. Hauge), 2015, aqueous polyester and pigment dispersal on panel, 121.0 x 162.5 x 5.0 cm. Image © Richard Devereux 2015

Richard Devereux, One Morning We’ll Slip Into A Harbour We Have Never Known, (After Olav H. Hauge), 2015, aqueous polyester and pigment dispersal on panel, 121.0 x 162.5 x 5.0 cm. Image © Richard Devereux 2015

In a recent article at Abcrit Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe argues that “we see paintings as beings rather than things. To share a space with them is more like being with a person than with a table or a rug”. Being with these artworks is not at all like being with a table or a rug. Maybe that’s why I think they are paintings, whether strictly speaking they are or not. After all, what is “aqueous polyester and pigment dispersal”? None of us here can explain it even though at first we thought we knew what it meant. Reading in the gallery notes that

the work is made by using a high-density pigment which is applied to a 100% cotton fibre membrane. By employing conventional masking methods and a variety of ‘pressure dispersal techniques’ – which have evolved over extensive periods of experimentation – the unique surface evolves as the dispersal flow is disturbed and randomised by a form of ‘particle interference’. The finished membrane is then mounted and then coated with several applications of archival, water-clear, acid-free, matt varnish,

helps me a bit, and I have to say that it does sound like painting, if not quite as we know it.

Other Places ()29.1 x 40.2 x 4.0 cm

Richard Devereux, Other Places (series two) II, 2015, pigment dispersal on panel, 29.1 x 40.2 x 4.0 cm. Image © Richard Devereux 2015

Once I get over that I don’t know how they’re made and I get on with just looking at them. I am captivated, enthralled even, but not quieted. My state is more one of excitation, and it only very slowly gives way to something calmer.

The paintings (?) are quite similar, monochromatic or almost so, always blue or turquoise, the parts entirely determined by the whole, yet themselves making up that whole, and only subtly differentiating themselves as ‘parts’. The differences between one painting and another becomes interesting. I have favourites, but it’s not easy to say why. I like the ones that don’t have a border more than the ones that do, and I attempt to rationalize why that might be. Is it that the border appears to display the work more conventionally, emphasizing the image more than the object, whereas in those that have no border the image/object relation is more ambiguous? I am enjoying all of them, each individual work having something at times only slightly different to offer. In One Morning We’ll Slip Into A Harbour We Have Never Known and Other Places (series two) II, I sense that I am looking at a landscape but only long enough to be brought back to the surface by the homogeneity of incident and lack of representational markers. But the surface is difficult to discern, I know it is flat yet it contains a strange kind of illusionistic quality, as if it also contains the illusion of another surface, lunar or aquatic. Then again, maybe it is a kind of weaved fabric I am studying.

OTHER PLACES (I), 2015, aqueous polyester and pigment dispersal on panel, 25.5 x 17.0 x 3.8 cm,

OTHER PLACES (I), 2015, aqueous polyester and pigment dispersal on panel, 25.5 x 17.0 x 3.8 cm. Image © Richard Devereux 2015

Other Places (I) and Other Places (II), both small paintings, have obvious similarities as well as noticeable differences. Other Places (I) has more the appearance of movement, as if the image was fixed in mid flow, whereas Other Places (II) is static both in the sense of “still”and in the sense of an electrical buzz that is almost auditory, and it seems to hold more surface detail. It’s this second one that I like the most. I really like it and spend ages looking at it. Yet, I find it almost impossible to verbalize what it is that I am enjoying so much. I like the other one, but I like this one more, why? I am reminded of a time I was viewing a painting by Clem Crosby in a London gallery not so long ago. A critic who joined me pronounced an immediate judgment, something along the lines of “the colour is awful”. I made the mistake of asking him what he thought was “awful” about it, only to find that If I didn’t already know he certainly wasn’t going to explain it to me, it was so obviously self-evident. My own view was that the colour was rather good, but I would have been equally unable to justify my position. I am not at all sure that the words I have learned to say to myself are anything like an accurate report of my experience. Is this the whole point of looking? Almost that the more difficult it is to say in words what’s happening, the more interesting is the work, but that’s no reason to give up on the attempt! Nevertheless, for now, I just look.

OTHER PLACES (I), 2015, aqueous polyester and pigment dispersal on panel, 25.5 x 17.0 x 3.8 cm

OTHER PLACES (II), 2015, aqueous polyester and pigment dispersal on panel, 25.5 x 17.0 x 3.8 cm. Image © Richard Devereux 2015

Continuing to look, it’s the constructed-ness of the work that regains my attention, and I imagine once again the method of its making and what relationship the artist has to each finished piece. How much control does he exert, versus the paintings almost making themselves? Could it be that the notion of self-organization, or autopoiesis is helpful in thinking about this artist’s production, a development from the acheiropoiesis I started out with? As Devereux says

The work continually evolves, the work carries me – it knows far more than I do – I’m simply a facilitator.

It is no longer idols or icons I have in mind, more the way that (living) systems invent themselves. I am thinking metaphorically, clearly paintings are not alive, yet we do tend to relate to them “as beings rather than things”. Is a painting akin to a self-organizing system, and perhaps specifically so in Devereux’s method, (though indeed I have little understanding, if any, of what that method might actually be)?


Written by Andy Parkinson

January 14, 2016 at 11:50 am

David Manley, Deadly Delicious at Tarpey Gallery

with 9 comments

At Tarpey Gallery, David Manley‘s new paintings on circular (sometimes oval) aluminium supports have a wonderful, shiny gold- leaf quality, a consequence partly of the support and partly of the method of painting in semi transparent layers of different colours. They remind me of icons, but bigger, and it’s diseases they represent not divinities, if indeed they are representations.  After all, the sensuality of the paint and luminosity of colour seem to be enjoyed in their own right, and I cannot easily verify their likeness to the specific viruses of their titles, because not being an epidemiologist I don’t often look at viruses through a microscope. So, I have little choice anyway, but to respond to each image on its own terms.

If I had not seen the title Smallpox nor made the connection to the deadliness of the Deadly Delicious series, it might have been only the deliciousness of this painting I paid attention to, with the informal handling of paint, but then also the careful building up of layers creating this hard, pearlescent surface. And there’s the vibrancy of the colours and the figural similarity to a bunch of grapes. It’s only as I look at the picture with “deadly” in mind that I start to wonder if the colours might be slightly too much, about to tip over into the fluorescence I might associate with dead things or deadly materials, the green of acid perhaps. It’s a feast of contradictions, seeming to celebrate the state of being “in-between”.

David Manley, DDA 1 - Smallpox.  Acrylic on Aluminium, 90cm d

David Manley, DDA 1 – Smallpox. Acrylic on Aluminium, 90cm d. Image by courtesy of the artist

Manley is interested in viruses “because they inhabit a place somewhere between living and ‘dead’ or dormant things”, almost as if they are analogous with the situation of the paintings as somewhere between abstract and representational. The circular shape is “in between” landscape and portrait, or perhaps neither landscape nor portrait, though the miniature portraiture tradition might provide a precedent for reading them as portraits. However, in contradistinction to miniature portraits, in Manley’s deadly delicious series each image gives the impression that it could be turned through 360 degrees and continue to work. This impression is, I think, reinforced by the horizontal ‘flatbed’ orientation of a virus seen through a microscope, the circular supports of the paintings already having supplied the cue to interpret them as petri dishes or lenses.

David Manley, DDA 5 - Swine Flu. Acrylic on Aluminium, 90 cm d.

David Manley, DDA 5 – Swine Flu. Acrylic on Aluminium, 90 cm d. Image by courtesy of the artist

DDA 5 Swine Flu is a diabolical image of coals in an eternal fire. It looks like what I imagine Swine Flu might feel like, not something I want to test! Just as I wouldn’t want to think of this image as a “point of contact” with the represented, as one might have done with a Byzantine icon.  Nevertheless, icons were images of the invisible and surely this painting is also an image of something that is invisible, at least to the naked eye. Except, strictly speaking, the source material for each paintings is already an image, a picture of a microscopic event, which is then flattened out and simplified, or ‘abstracted’ but not beyond recognition for a scientist familiar with the given virus. The colours however, are entirely the artist’s invention. One type of electron microscope operates only in black and white, Manley explains, adding that because the conventions around coloration remain somewhat open ended  “I took a decision right from the start that in this respect I had ‘carte blanche’ and have operated accordingly”.

David Manley, DDA 6 Sin Nombre , Acrylic on Aluminium, 90 cm. d.

David Manley, DDA 6 Sin Nombre , Acrylic on Aluminium, 90 cm. d. Image by courtesy of the artist

In DDA 6 Sin Nombre, the colours are rich blues, reds, ochres, and copper, their crisp edges contrasting with diffused colours in the blue ground, some of which may have been spray painted. And the ‘character’ of this painting (perhaps they are portraits after all) is quite different to The others. This one is calmer, cooler, less frantic than DDA 5 Swine Flu and softer than DDA 8 Measles.

I am interested in the fact that the source images are available to the artist only as a result of technology, and in the implied conflation here of art and technology. The words ‘art’ (‘techne’) and ‘technology’ share the same etymological root, surely. Yet the painterly style suggests ‘free play’, which may be akin to a more primitive approach, often in our thinking the opposite of the technological. In this respect I am reminded of the recent article in the White Review, Techno-Primitivism by Vanessa Hodgkinson and David Trotter, discussing a primitivism mediated by technology in the abstract paintings of Vanessa Hodgkinson and the writing of D H Lawrence.

DDA 8 - Measles . Acrylic on Aluminium, 49 cm. d.

DDA 8 – Measles . Acrylic on Aluminium, 49 cm. d. Image by courtesy of the artist

It may be the case that in a technological society an artist cannot not respond to technology in some way, even if that response is an unconscious one. David Manley is very conscious of the interplay between technology and the handmade that these paintings celebrate.  Jacques Ellul argued that modern art is an imitation of technology or a compensation for it.  The deadly delicious series seems to have elements of both.

David Manley, Deadly Delicious, is showing at Tarpey Gallery until 31 August

At the Midlands Open Exhibition 2011

with 9 comments

I submitted three paintings to the Midlands Open Exhibition 2011 at the Tarpey Gallery, Castle Donington:

They chose to show this one, (with the wrong title). It looks OK in the space above the stairs.

At the private view I met friends I haven’t seen for some time, including one whom I haven’t seen for thirty years. My brother-in-law visited too but I never actually saw him. Sorry Brian, and thank you all for your support.


Here’s my friend Richard looking at the wonderful painting ‘curled up’, by fellow art blogger Rachael Pinks, who was also at the private view.

Written by Andy Parkinson

November 13, 2011 at 8:59 am

Midlands Open Exhibition 2011

with 3 comments

I submitted some work to the Midlands Open at Tarpey Gallery, Castle Donington and was delighted to discover earlier today that (some or all of) it was accepted (not even sure which at the moment).

Opening night is Saturday 12 November 6 – 8 pm.

Fellow art blogger Rachael Pinks also has some lovely work in this show.


Written by Andy Parkinson

November 10, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Posted in Art

Tagged with , ,

Doing the Whitworth Walk

leave a comment »

We had done some walking ourselves, in Derbyshire, and I had also recently seen Marek Tobolewski‘s work at Tarpey Gallery, where he seemed, in part, to be taking Paul Klee‘s advice about “taking a line for a walk”, so walking had already become a bit of a theme, when my brother and I visited the Whitworth, Manchester.

As well as the Flailing Trees and the film(s) 1395 Days Without Red, we saw Projections: Works from The Artangel Collection, art work by Francis Alys, Atom Egoyan, Tony Oursler and Catherine Yass. And there were walking themes! High Wire, 2008 by Catherine Yass features a four screen video presentation of a walk on a very high wire, (the wire stretched between two tower blocks at The Red Road Estate, in Glasgow) by Didier Pasquette.  I was on the edge of my metaphorical seat (I was actually standing at the time) as he edged his way onto the wire, walked about half way and was then forced back by the buffeting wind. The four videos showing different views, from different perceptual positions, includes one filmed by the walker, a camera being attached to his head. They are each dramatic in different ways, each supplying a different description.

Different too are the walks described by Francis Alys in his Seven Walks, 2005. Whilst I view I am walking, retracing his steps in my imagination as I look at various documents and maps recording walks in London made by the artist, for example walking only on the sunny side of the street, or on the shady side of the street. I find I get engrossed and fascinated as I study drawings, notes, lists, and photographs, along with photocopies that seem connected to the walks through something similar to the psychoanalytical technique of free association. It seems a lot like what happens whenever you take a walk, you free-associate as you go. Ideas, images come to mind only to be replaced or built upon by others vaguely related to the sights, sounds and feelings of the ‘external’ walk.

There are videos too, The Nightwatch is an installation of multiple CCTV screens, placing the viewer in the perceptual position of security personnel at the National Portrait Gallery, watching an urban fox make its way through the labyrinth of galleries. The fox’s walk is also documented as a storyboard and drawn on a plan of the galleries. Seeing this line taken for a walk, I free-associate, remembering Paul Klee and Marek Tobolewski.

In the video Railings, a man walks through the Regency squares of London, drumming a stick along the cast-iron railings, the walls, the pillars at the doorways of the Georgian (?) houses, even at one stage setting off a car alarm. Screened in trio, with a staggered timeframe, like a round, the rhythms become a cacophony, an auditory record of the walk being shown visually.

Years ago, when Clement Greenberg was charting the ‘progress’ of visual art towards the flattened picture plane I seem to remember that, as well as glorying in the replacement of the window-on-the-world with abstraction, he also recognised it as a loss. (It is a loss that many painters have since been unwilling to make, hence the return with a vengeance of figurative painting since modernism.) At the Whitworth today I saw sculpture, figurative painting and drawing both traditional and contemporary, prints, photography, video, film and conceptual art documented in a variety of ways and there was ‘sound art’ too. What I didn’t see anywhere on my Whitworth walk was an abstract painting and though there was much to enjoy, and I did enjoy it, I experienced this conspicuous absence as a great loss!

Marek Tobolewski, ‘Sym’, Tarpey Gallery

with 2 comments

What kind of pleasure is it that I am experiencing when viewing the Marek Tobolewski show ‘Sym’, at Tarpey Gallery, Castle Donington? ( I said a little about this exhibition in a previous post.)

Marek Tobolewski  ~ Sym ~  Tarpey Gallery ©The Artist, Image by courtesy of the artist.

In The Art of Seeing, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Rick E. Robinson show that the aesthetic encounter is an example of the flow state (deep involvement in, and effortless progression of an activity for its own sake). It’s a naturally occurring trance. But what kind of trance is it? When I gazed up into the sky, in The Deer Shelter yesterday, was I in the same kind of trance as when looking at Tobolewski’s work? I would argue that the two responses are similar, yet with interesting differences. The Deer Shelter trance was somehow more outward, more expansive, than the ‘Sym’ trance that seems more focused, more inward. The pleasure, for me, comes from tracing the line with my eye/mind, leading to a state that is more like study than reverie.  I find that I am talking to myself as I follow the walk that the continuous line makes in repeating, though never precisely, a similar walk taken in a previous painting. One of the questions I ask myself is which of the paintings came first, for example in the dyptich 1LC DipSymM+R 2011, Cobalt White on Lamp Black & Lamp Black on Cobalt White, (shown on the right in the installation shot above), did one of the pair precede the other and if so, which one? Or were they painted together? Is one a copy of the other, or are they copies without an original: ‘sym’-ulacra? And now that I am comparing the two pictures, I notice that the trance has changed. Now I am seeing the whole, the synthesis that is the dyptich, and then the whole that is the series on view here.  The poppy red painting on linen, on the left in the installation shot, seems to have its origin in the dyptich, and  there may be others too that are not here, so my perception of the whole turns out only to be partial after all.

Borrowing another distinction from the field of linguistics (I also used one in a my previous post about this exhibition), I could say that the completed paintings are nominalisations: verbs in noun form, and that in viewing them my trance is one of denominalsing and renominalising. The line taken for a walk, by the artist in the act of painting, is all verb. In the completed walk the verb has become noun. A symmetrical process takes place in viewing the work. I see the paintings in their nominalised form and start to trace the continuous line, with the various levels of underpainting and crossing. The work has become all verb again, until later I stand back to see the ‘whole’ with a new understanding. This itself is a further development of the trance state.

I want to say something about trance phenomena like time distortion that connect directly to these paintings. And I will … another time.

The Marek Tobolewski exhibition Sym, at Tarpey Gallery, Castle Donington, continues until 24 September 2011.

Tarpey Gallery, Castle Donington, Earth and Wealth

with 5 comments

What’s to see in Castle Donington as well as motor racing, Download festival and a historic church building?

There’s a lovely show of paintings still on at Tarpey Gallery

but hurry! It ends on 20 August.

And at last, I find abstract paintings on show not 20 miles away from where I live! I don’t know how I could have missed this contemporary art space, it has been open since 2009, and today was the first I knew of it. (Except that as I look through a number of emails I notice that it has been mentioned to me before , yet somehow it must not have registered).

The current show is of paintings by David Manley, entitled From the Earth Wealth.  Lots of modestly sized, landscape related abstracts, derived from and named after the settlements of North West Leicestershire. This one, for example, is Diseworth.

Diseworth, Oil on Linen, 30 x 40 cm. Image by courtesy of Tarpey Gallery

There  may be a sense in which it brings back some experience of Diseworth, there is surely an element of representation. Is it a fence or a gate perhaps, with something propped up against it? And is that a cloud over a field… of sea? If it does represent, what we are seeing is highly generalised and the sense of specific place is lost. Or maybe the representation has dream like qualities, so it’s not so much that particular place as that place half remembered as in a dream. Another option could be that we are dealing here with the very act of representing, and the deletions, generalisations and distortions that naturally take place as part of that process. Or, then again, it could be misleading to think of them as representations at all. They are, in fact abstract. They are so in the sense of “abstracted from”, Leicestershire settlements providing a starting point only. The singularity of each painting has to do with what is happening there on the canvas rather than the singular experience of being in, for example, Hemington.

Hemington, Oil on Linen, 30 x 40cm. Image by courtesy of Tarpey Gallery

Again, thinking representationally, it looks like a wooden structure of some kind. There is figuration, for example there is a consistent light source. Perhaps I could even imagine climbing this structure…until I try to work out how I would actually do it. Where would I start? Which is the front? Am I looking down on it? Is it horizontal or vertical? What size is it? etc

The place names are ‘real’ origins, however. Each painting is based on, “abstracted from”, photographs taken by the artist at that specific location and then digitally manipulated.

For me, it’s an interesting way of beginning, that leads then to a manipulation of painted shape and colour that has a lot more to do with early modernist painting, than it has to do with any of the starting points, and arriving at abstract pictures that are wonderfully rewarding to view. Here at Tarpey Gallery in Castle Donington, abstracted from the earth, are a wealth of  painted forms for our enjoyment, it’s not too late to go and see them, if you hurry!

(Since writing this post I discovered that David Manley has an excellent wordpress blog and photos of the paintings from this exhibition can be seen there, Here’s a link)

Written by Andy Parkinson

August 18, 2011 at 6:03 am