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Posts Tagged ‘Wendy McLean

Summer Mix at Turps Banana Gallery

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Summer Mix at Turps Banana Gallery is their first salon-style summer show. I am delighted to be included in such company. The artists are as follows.

Jessie Browne, Rose Davey, Carlos David, Dan Davis, Matthew Draper, Stuart Elliot, Louise Evans, James Fisher, Kirsten Glass, Kate Groobey, Lewis Henderson, Sam Herbert, Günther Herbst, Reece Jones, Richard Kirwan, Hannah Knox. Rachel Levitas, Wendy McLean, Mali Morris, Andy Parkinson, Katie Pratt, Dan Roach, David Ryan, Kate Shepherd, Marianne Shorten, Damian Taylor, Alaena Turner, Joan Waltemath, Simon Willems, Mela Yerka, Neil Zakiewicz

My own little painting comprises two 12″ x 12″ canvases, a duo, or perhaps even better, a double or twins, as one is identical to the other, in terms of the process used for dividing each square. One of the things that interests me when the two are presented side by side, almost adjoined, is that what was edge becomes centre. The yellow line that, as edge, was almost unnoticeable, as centre becomes quite prominent.

Andy Parkinson, Duo: 92 division square 1 & 2, 2015, acrylic on canvas, two canvases each one 12

Andy Parkinson, Ninety-Two Division Square Duo, 2015, acrylic on canvas, two canvases each one 12″ x 12″

At the centre of the exhibition, and quite prominent, is a wonderful Richard Kirwan painting, Frame of Reference. It is as disorienting as it is strident, with flat dayglow colours arranged in bands, supporting white stencilled asterisks that appear to rotate. There’s a strange spatial thing going on but with absolutely no attempt to depict a place where something happens. There’s no picture here, but some of the asterisk shapes are closer to me than others, which seem more to recede, especially when comparing a set of asterisks on a different band of the same colour. I am looking now on the fifth row down in the central black band and comparing the two asterisks there with the two on black in the row above, quite a deep space seems to open up between the two sets. And this keeps happening as I look at other parts of the painting too. So there’s the illusion of movement and the illusion of space yet no illusionary scene within which a narrative might develop.

Richard Kirwan, Frame of Reference, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 168 x 137 cm. My photo.

Richard Kirwan, Frame of Reference, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 168 x 137 cm. My photo.

Crossings (Red), by Mali Morris, a smaller, slower painting, less strident than the Kirwan, has a rich overall red quality to it, even the yellow that acts as a ground for criss-crossing red lines seems to have red beneath it, shining through. If for a moment, we perceive the yellow ground as negative space then the lines that zig-zag, one horizontally, and one vertically, are positive figures, above or in front of it. However, the yellow pushes forward, no longer content to be ground, it seeks to become figure, and my reading of the space becomes more complex. Losing my initial sense of lines traversing a flat ground, I now perceive the yellow rectangle at bottom right to be way in front of the one diagonally opposite, but only long enough for the spatial relationships to shift again, so that the converse is now true. I am also becoming more aware of the fleshy pinky-orangey-red shape on the right hand edge pulling spatially forward of the crossing lines, suggesting that it may be part of another larger shape, which is itself obscured by the canvas edge, similar to the way in which edges sometimes crop figures in snap-shot photography. (There’s a lot more to be said about this delightful painting, which I hope to find time for at a later date.)

Mali Morris, Crossings (Red), 2014, acrylic on canvas 43 x 60 cm, my photo.

Mali Morris, Crossings (Red), 2014, acrylic on canvas 43 x 60 cm. My photo.

Whilst I think it unlikely that Morris is deliberately connecting to photography, there are other works here that may have a more direct link, such as Damian Taylor’s Untitled (in), which reproduces the inside of the metal support he uses to paint on, like a photocopy of the inside of a stretcher. The work takes the form of a white monochrome, very nearly a picture of nothing, a representation of itself in its blank state. Based on information from Taylor’s website, (rather than from sensory evidence I must admit, even though I am looking directly at the work), I think it is a resin cast of the inside of a folded metal tray. I can see smudges and incidental hand prints or dirt marks, and not much else. Is it a painting, a sculpture or a print? And are all paintings all three of these anyway? What, to begin with, looked very slight now becomes complex, first intellectually and then, as a result, visually. I do think it is that way around in this work. Though either way it is a fascinating piece, and I am totally intrigued by it.

Damian Taylor, Untitled (in), 2015, Pigmented epoxy resin, glass fibre, honeycomb aluminium, 69 × 48 cm. My photo

Damian Taylor, Untitled (in), 2015, Pigmented epoxy resin, glass fibre, honeycomb aluminium, 69 × 48 cm. My photo

There are other monochromes here too: Louise Evans’ Untitled (Russet), and possibly Stuart Elliot’s Untitled, may be best thought of in this category, as may Rose Davey’s Untitled pair of paintings and Dan Roach’s meticulously painted Homebound, which is not a monochrome in the sense of a potentially imageless coloured surface, but rather in the sense that there is one colour, white, on an unprimed canvas support. Here, overlapping layers of natural hexagonal cells, reminiscent of a wasp nest, create a swirling circular movement that becomes a vortex, deepening spatially the more I view it. In Rose Davey’s double painting each panel presents a blue rectangle bounded by a brown band, as if the blue were mounted on the brown. At first appearance the two panels are identical. However, like seeing twins and only gradually perceiving the differences, I start to notice that the two blues are not the same. It is actually Katrina Blannin who points out to me the possible changes in hue, yet it remains unclear to us whether it is simply that the frames are of different browns, one being nearer to yellow the other being nearer to violet, thereby creating different experiences of the “same” blue or whether in fact the two blues are physically different. My money is on the frames alone being different.

Left: Rose Davey, Untitled, 2011, acrylic and emulsion paint on plywood panels, 60 x 40 x 4cm each. Right: Dan Roach, Homebound, 2012, mixed media on canvas, 70 x 60cm. My photo

Left: Rose Davey, Untitled, 2011, acrylic and emulsion paint on plywood panels, 60 x 40 x 4cm each. Right: Dan Roach, Homebound, 2012, mixed media on canvas, 70 x 60cm. My photo

David Ryan’s Set 2 (c) also seems to have some doubling going on, this time within the one painting, in the repetition of rectangles that occupy different spaces, one in lime green, one in yellow ochre and one in white, as well as the containing rectangle of the support. The green appears to be an opaque “outer” whereas the ochre houses some internal happening or other, stage like in appearance, almost like a play within a play.

There is contrast in the ways in which different parts are painted: scumbled brushstrokes or gestural rhythms differentiating themselves from areas of flat matt colour.  The more clearly delineated rectangles cluster towards the top left quadrant of the painting, almost in conflict with the unformed-ness of the rest of the canvas, “we three against the world”.

David Ryan, Set 2 (c), 2015, oil on linen 25 x 30 cm. My photo

David Ryan, Set 2 (c), 2015, oil on linen 25 x 30 cm. My photo

James Fisher’s painting may look abstract, with geometric shapes in a non literal pictorial space. However, it contains clear representational elements, a fan, or a stairway, along with architectural cubes, suggestive of a fortress or castle ramparts alongside the natural geometry of plants, or animals, sponges perhaps and what could resemble a sea creature, at first I am thinking coral, then even a brain a heart or some other internal organ. There is imagery, and possibly some narrative that is hinted at, evoked, but only ambiguously described,  rather like in a dream, or a song or a poem. The work is named after the traditional Irish folk song Eileen Aroon. Could it be that a painting may evoke in a similar way to a song, and yet also be less fleeting, more fixed, possibly maintaining a beauty that does not fade?

James Fisher, Eileen Aroon, 2013, oil on linen, 52 x 57 cm. My photo

James Fisher, Eileen Aroon, 2013, oil on linen, 52 x 57 cm. My photo

When, like the dawning day
Eileen Aroon
Love sends his early ray
Eileen Aroon
What makes his dawning glow
Changeless through joy and woe
Only the constant know
Eileen Aroon

Were she no longer true
Eileen Aroon
What would her lover do
Eileen Aroon
Fly with a broken chain
Far o’er the bounding main
Never to love again
Eileen Aroon

Youth must in time decay
Eileen Aroon
Beauty must fade away
Eileen Aroon
Castles are sacked in war
Chieftains are scattered far
Truth is a fixed star
Eileen Aroon

Summer Mix is on at Turps Banana Gallery until 15 August, opening times Fridays and Saturdays 12-6pm

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Rest at Lion and Lamb Gallery

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Taking a rest from my over-busy schedule, I arrive at the Lion and Lamb somewhat hot and bothered. I order a drink at the bar, get mistaken for a member of a darts team playing this evening, and enjoy a good mix of sounds old and new, as I make my way to the gallery in the back room, where the exhibition Rest, curated by Wendy McLean is on show. My other passion being Ballroom, Latin and Sequence dancing I note that the rhythm they’re playing now is a Rumba. The first beat is not danced it is “rested”, the hip settling over the standing leg before the step is taken with the opposite foot. It’s not really a rest at all, it’s the means to getting good hip action. So whilst little is actually happening in terms of a step, there’s a lot going on in terms of movement.

There’s a lot going on behind or within the minimal (not necessarily Minimalist) ‘events’ being shown here, and some of it I find disconcerting enough to disturb any rest I thought I might get.  I am recalling that Robin Greenwood once brought my attention to how unlikely it must be that Matisse actually meant it when he said that he wanted his paintings to be “similar to a comfortable armchair”, Greenwood saying “If you are comfortable with Matisse, I’d worry”.

I’m feeling mildly uncomfortable figuring out what’s going on in with Ben Cain‘s three dimensional piece entitled Private Dancer, in which two  MDF panels, trying their best to look like wood, lean against MDF covered blocks on which are placed an MDF (?) baton.

Ben Cain, Private Dancer, 2014, Sealed MDF, painted and lacquered. dimensions variable

Ben Cain, Private Dancer, 2014, Sealed MDF, painted and lacquered. dimensions variable. Image by courtesy of the artist.

Each panel is host to a fragment of text, one written on the front (well, I interpret it as a ‘front’ anyway), that reads “I’m your private dancer” no doubt a quote from the Mark Knopfler song, of the same title, made famous by Tina Turner, and the other on the back that says “the only thing your eyes haven’t told me is…” the rest of the text is obscured by the block but I finish the cheap chat up line in my head … “your name”. I’m thinking about the crassness of the MDF as MDF matching the statement “I am your private dancer” and the insincerity of the chat up line somehow reflected in the quality of MDF pretending to be wood.

Ben Cain, Private Dancer, 2014, sealed MDF, painted and lacquered, dimension variable

Ben Cain, Private Dancer, 2014, sealed MDF, painted and lacquered, dimension variable. Image by courtesy of the artist

I become aware that the surfaces are worked and I wonder about the similarities and differences between the labour of, for example, a carpenter and an artist, the materials here looking like they should be functional, yet serving no function except perhaps as makeshift signs themselves fragments, abstracted from a context that might provide meaning.

It’s only a few weeks since Cain’s exhibition Down Time at The Tetley, in which he explored themes of work and so called non-productive activity, and I find that here, viewing Private Dancer, it is to these themes that I address my thoughts.

Would it be correct to categorise this and other works here as “conceptual”? I certainly find that the experience of seeing them leads to increased conceptual activity or internal dialogue, partly perhaps because there is little happening visually, yet in a very different way to say a painting by Agnes Martin, where there is little to see, yet that experience seems somehow entirely ‘visual’.

Freyja Wright, Interior Sequence, 2013, oil on linen, each panel 60 x 90 cm, Image courtesy of the artist

Freyja Wright, Interior Sequence, 2013, oil on linen, each panel 60 x 90 cm, Image courtesy of the artist

Freyja Wright’s painting, one work comprising two panels, entitled Interior Sequence, show incidental scenes, by which I mean that there is little incidence: two meticulously executed domestic interiors with a figure (she looks a lot like Joni Mitchell). Although the forms are precisely rendered, it’s difficult to read what is taking place, I think because of the lack of action. Wright describes the events depicted in her paintings as “low key moments”, like when someone turns their head, reflected perhaps in a mirror or a pane of glass. For me, these images have the quality of snapshots taken accidentally. Possibly the figure turns from one panel to the next, or maybe the viewer has turned or a door has opened creating a counter reflection in the mirror, perhaps there are two different figures within the same interior. Whilst I have difficulty identifying specifically what has happened, one thing is certain, before ever seeing the title or noting that it is one piece of work, I am reading it sequentially. So now rather than snapshot photography it’s still frames of film that I could be recognising. Yet, presented in this way, as slowly painted images, abstracted from the context which might once have generated meanings, they now appear mysterious, opaque, lacking a coherent narrative, as if the very strangeness of the visual might be what is on offer for my consideration.

Nicholas John Jones, Le Scale Mobili (the escalators) (IT), 2011, oil on linen, 38 x 32 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

Nicholas John Jones, Le Scale Mobili (the escalators) (IT), 2011, oil on linen, 38 x 32 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

Three paintings by Nicholas John Jones, inhabit a conceptual space within the abstract tradition, though toying with figural associations, exploring themes to do with materiality, gesture, image making, and colour. The hues are soft, and the drawing hazy, especially in the charming little painting Le Scale Mobili (The Escalators), where I feel cued to recognise shapes or a vague scene of some kind, but that won’t actually come into focus. I wonder if the title might suggest a picture of something but a set of escalators is certainly not it, much too hard and synthetic, it might be more to do with the feeling of ascending.  I could imagine being on an escalator and taking in only the sense of moving upwards as opposed to bringing the fleeting sights to recognition. This experience is decidedly visual. Less to do with the strangeness of what might be decipherable “out there”, more to do with the sense of seeing without labeling, not necessarily an inwardly focused experience, it is visual after all, more like seeing before the linguistic descriptions kick in. Here it’s the opposite of internal dialogue that is elicited. Even if only momentarily, I am in a state of rest, jaw slightly open, breathing slowed, alternating between foveal and peripheral vision.

There’s a different alternating in relation to the two paintings here by Brad Grievson, in that both employ double images one situated slightly overlapping the other, and in each painting my attention alternates between the two images, looking for the differences.

Brad Grievson, left to right, Double Drawing (Camera Edge), 2014, and Double Drawing (Shadows), 2014. Image by courtesy of Lion and Lamb Gallery

Brad Grievson, left to right, Double Drawing (Camera Edge), 2014, and Double Drawing (Shadows), 2014. Image by courtesy of Lion and Lamb Gallery

I am enthralled by them. Viewing the Jones paintings was more, if I dare use the term, emotional than the Grievson works, where my engagement has more of an intellectual quality, I might be tempted to make the distinction between ‘somatic’ for Jones and ‘cognitive’ for Grievson. My curiosity is aroused by his technique. Double Drawing (Camera Edge), and Double Drawing (Shadows) look like they may have been made with charcoal yet in each painting the ‘double’ is too exact a copy for them to be freehand drawings. I wonder which one, if any is the original, and I am asking myself whether one is a traced copy of the other or whether the two are ‘copies’ of a third image, as with printmaking. Turning to the gallery notes I discover that the images are transfers, though specifically how they are “transferred” is not stated, nor can I tell by studying the surface. Each transfer has a gloss sheen that stands out against the more matt white support. Little accidents seem to have happened along the way, a hair caught in the transfer here, or some damage to the surface there.

Ben Grievson, Double Drawing, (Camera Edge), 2014, Transfers on Canvas, 66 x 51cm, image by courtesy of Lion and Lamb Gallery

Ben Grievson, Double Drawing, (Camera Edge), 2014, Transfers on Canvas, 66 x 51cm, image by courtesy of the artist

I have written before about my own status as an identical twin becoming part of my reflection whenever looking at double images, my own transferred content, that clearly must be quite outside the artist’s intention. I also speculate on what an “expanded field” for painting might look like and I conclude that it must include printmaking/not printmaking  and drawing/not drawing. Perhaps these paintings occupy such a field. That one has the supplementary title (camera edge) gets me looking for an image and I wonder if I can see a face obscured by a camera in the moment of taking a photograph, perhaps not! Then I think that this could indeed be transferred from a photographic image. I recall that as teenagers my brother and I used to use detergent to transfer photographs from newspapers to cartridge paper. I believe the process used here is different, but the fragmentary abstract that resulted seems similar to what Grievson may be doing.

Ben Grievson, Double Drawing (Shadows), 2014, Transfers on Canvas, 66 x 51cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

Ben Grievson, Double Drawing (Shadows), 2014, Transfers on Canvas, 66 x 51cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

If there is a source image it is perhaps simultaneously preserved and destroyed in the process of transferring it to canvas. Certainly a new thing results from the doubling of whatever the source image may have been. Again, we have this process of “abstracting from” that in differing ways is present in the other works here.

Rest was at Lion and Lamb Gallery from 20 June to 12 July 2014.

Other Objects at Lion and Lamb Gallery

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The new exhibition at the Lion and Lamb Gallery entitled Other Objects, curated by Caterina Lewis and Gwennan Thomas, includes paintings and objects by Karl Bielik, Alice Cretney, Vincent Hawkins, Caterina Lewis, Wendy McLean, Gwennan Thomas, and David Webb and is on show until 13 July.

According to the gallery notes, the works, whilst coming from varied places of logic around abstraction, at some point in their realisation share a notion of object and placing them in proximity to other objects, persons or spaces, new relationships emerge inviting us to look again. For me “object” and “relationship” are key words in any consideration of abstract painting, even though they tend to get used in contradictory ways: in abstraction the object (content) gives way to relationship (form), or conversely the relationship (to content) gives way to the autonomous object (form).

Foreground, Alice Cretney: installation, 2013. linoleum, acrylic paint, acetate, plaster, screws. dimensions variable. On wall: Wendy McLean: Wall, a foil, a distance, 2012, oil on cotton, 85 x 113 cm; and Karl Bielik: Widescreen, 2012, oil on linen, 35 x 27cm. Image by courtesy of Lion and Lamb Gallery.

Foreground, Alice Cretney: installation, 2013. linoleum, acrylic paint, acetate, plaster, screws. dimensions variable. On wall: Wendy McLean: Wall, a foil, a distance, 2012, oil on cotton, 85 x 113 cm; and Karl Bielik: Widescreen, 2012, oil on linen, 35 x 27cm. Image by courtesy of Lion and Lamb Gallery.

Stepping into the Lion and Lamb Gallery, in the back room of a London pub, and being a keen social dancer, I notice that the music being played in the pub, is a good jive tune, and letting slip my interest to Caterina Lewis, we reflect on the way that, in ballroom dancing, forms that were once derived from certain contents now operate independently of them. In Tango the hold, and head flick, may once have been related to the avoidance of the gaucho’s smell, or in old-time dancing the man placing his left hand firmly on his hip once had the purpose of keeping his sword out of the way. No longer wearing a sword, the male dancer continues to place his hand on his hip, the object has gone and only the relationship remains.

Alice Cretney’s sculptural ‘paintings’ are autonomous objects, their relationship to everyday objects is that they are ‘other’ in their “purposeless purposiveness” to borrow a phrase from Kant. The two-part installation here seems to offer two takes on painting’s rectangular picture plane, one that is three dimensional by virtue of being stacked and the other by being rolled. On the linoleum a set of painted gestural marks cannot compete with the one sweeping gesture of the roll itself, resulting in a curling ‘B’ motif drawn in space by the edge of the lino.

Behind it, the Wendy McLean painting, Wall, a foil, a distance, could be a picture of a graffitied wall, a painting of a painting, if it weren’t so immaterial, so veil-like, the marks that I thought were graffiti looking now more like vague objects in an undefined space, receding to a yellow stripe down the left hand edge, except that now the yellow springs forward to meet the surface. To make sense of it I compare it with other paintings in my head, and whilst the association doesn’t quite feel right because McLean’s space is less cubistic, it is Lyonel Feininger that keeps coming to mind, the way his architectural objects give way to light and space, so that in the end, that’s all there is.

The light and space in Karl Bielik’s Widescreen, is interesting too. First of all there’s the literal, three dimensional space of the distressed, buckled object that appears to have been left outside overnight, or for a few nights perhaps! There is something quite beautiful about it as object alone, before ever considering the relationships within the non-literal space of the picture. Isn’t there a tradition in Japanese ceramics of damaging the vessel during its making in order for it not to be too “perfect”?

Karl Bielik, Widescreen, 2012, oil on linen, 35 x 27cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

Karl Bielik, Widescreen, 2012, oil on linen, 35 x 27cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

Turning my attention to the picture, I notice that white pigment, having been pushed into the canvas rather than painted upon it, reflects light back at me from within the painting, or from behind the group of drawn gestures that seem to dance across the top of a hard rectangle or box, possibly the ‘widescreen’ of the title. Above the centre line all is movement and lightness, whereas below it is stability and weight. But not quite solid. Taking my cue from the title, I imagine I am seeing objects on the top of a TV, light reflected back from a wall behind it but also generated from the TV screen below. Not that it is a representation of such a scene, but only that it is similar in structure, relationship again rather than objects. And thinking structurally, I am also tempted to speculate on other binary opposites suggested in the “above and below” of that centre line, oppositions like analogue above the line and digital below the line, or organic vs artificial, or unbound vs contained, but in doing so I become aware that so much of seeing is also interpreting, and that in observing I am also projecting, quite likely confusing facture and fiction.

The other Karl Bielik object on show here, a painting entitled Net, is also capable of provoking allusions, whilst at the same time being strictly non-representational.

Karl Bielik, Net, 2013, oil on linen, 35 x 30cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

Karl Bielik, Net, 2013, oil on linen, 35 x 30cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

Here paint, applied and removed, in an amazing variety of ways for such a modestly sized piece, collaborates with the viewer to construct a rich and interesting planar space that is somehow both coherent and ambiguous. Drips on the uppermost surface become structure in the ‘background’ as the free play of the painting process interacts with the free play of viewing in order to create a kind of meaning, there may be projected content (it is a stage, a face or a mask), personal meanings, but more fundamentally it’s this attempting to assign meaning that becomes the meaning of the work, relationship again as opposed to objects.

Beilik’s pictures are dialogues, improvisations, having little idea at the beginning, of what the painting will become, he proceeds to lay down paint and then he responds to what happens, leading eventually to the crystallization of some image. Working on twenty or so paintings at any one time, he starts from the unknown and takes steps towards a constructed ‘known’, at some stage possibly writing a title, likely based on an association, on the wall beside one of the paintings being made. It’s all process:  ‘how’ rather than ‘what’, relationship rather than objects of content.

Caterina Lewis starts out with an image or ‘objects’ of content and empties them out during the painting process. We could use the expression “aesthetic reconstruction”. Quoting Henk Engel on Theo van Doesburg, Lewis and Thomas seem to allude both to the curation of the exhibition: the opening up of relationships between the objects on show, and to their own working methods:

In the aesthetic reconstruction…naturalism is breached. The object falls apart. the boundaries are abolished. A field of untied relationships opens up: relationships between parts of the object and parts of the environment.. but also with parts of other objects.

In Untitled (Yellow) Lewis seems to abolish the boundaries between objects as she wipes away previously applied paint, creating an absence, not so much ‘objects’ as an object, an exquisite surface.

Caterina Lewis, Untitled (yellow), 2012 oil on board, 51 x 40 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

Caterina Lewis, Untitled (yellow), 2012
oil on board, 51 x 40 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist

 It is difficult not to see a head, possibly of a religious figure, especially as light seems to emanate halo-like from the ‘face’, but then it could also be read as a torso, or as an arid  landscape, but these are mere vestiges of ‘objects’ that were her starting point ending up with a “field of untied relationships”.

Her more recent painting Collar seems less glossy than Untitled (Yellow), a sketchy surface that to me looks like it is painted on canvas, though in fact it is panel. The drawing is delicate, her pictorial strategy being to use precision and accuracy in the service of the indefinite: fields of relationships again, rather than objects of content, yet the painting itself becoming autonomous object.

The Gwennan Thomas paintings have a vagueness about them too that I find fascinating, and I have a similar experience as with the Bielik paintings of trying to find meanings and resorting in the end to supplying my own, hence becoming aware of the meaning-making process rather than the ‘objects’ of meaning. The oxymoron “precisely vague” seem to sum up the character of Untitled, 2012. The surface is the result of careful painting, and when I get up close I feel sure that the detailed modelling must dutifully represent something, but I can get no clue as to what it is. Possibly Greenberg’s definition of modernism: “the imitation of imitation as process” applies here.

GwennanThomas, Untitled, 2012, oil on MDF, 30 x 20cm

GwennanThomas, Untitled, 2012, oil on MDF, 30 x 20cm

I find only few associations in David Webb’s Untitled (Tusker), where a somewhat threatening (elephantine?) grey figure takes up most of the space defined by two ‘screens’ one in front of the grey form and one behind. I am surprised that the orange of the far screen and the blue/grey of the near screen allows the space to be read as three dimensional, but it does, at least until the orange pushes forward to assert itself as figure after all and two black diagonal lines prevent the grey form from continuing to make sense as something journeying between two screens. Now I am reading the shapes purely as shapes, the grey ones painted in two different ways the ‘body’ almost forming a pool of diluted paint in contrast to the heavier painted ‘head’ that is more opaque. The application of paint has produced a few minor splashes and there are small lighter painted marks towards the edges which aren’t so easy to see in a photograph (click to enlarge). They look like happy accidents at first but then I see them as carefully included, almost as if the painting has become a catalogue of painterly marks or relationships.

David Webb, Untitled (Tusker), 2013, acrylic on canvas, 46 x 61cm

David Webb, Untitled (Tusker), 2013, acrylic on canvas, 46 x 61cm

This painting is not flat, but it keeps becoming flat. It is a picture, but it sometimes makes more sense to think of it as a catalogue, or better an empirical investigation. There’s something of that in Vincent Hawkins works on card and paper.

Vincent Hawkins, Untitled, 2013, gouache on paper, dimensions variable, image by courtesy of the artist

Vincent Hawkins, Untitled, 2013, gouache on paper, dimensions variable, image by courtesy of the artist

Whilst they are constructions, they do appear to contain some figural associations, for example in Untitled 2013, some of the shapes and colours bring to mind clouds and boats rendered in a somewhat cartoon style. However, it is the careful folding of the paper to create a relief and the cutting out to create negative shapes that forms both their unique content and their objecthood. Like Cretney’s installation these abstractions are both painting and sculpture, or perhaps they are neither painting nor sculpture but other objects that, together with the other objects on show here invite us to look again and to think relationship over content. It could even be that such an invitation contains wisdom that reaches beyond the boundaries of the purely visual, the autonomous object, far from being hermetically sealed, maintaining a relatedness to other objects, to the world of the everyday.

All photographs by Lorna Milburn

The Henk Engel quote is from “Theo van Doesburg & The Destruction of Architectural Theory” in Constructing a New World; Van Doesburg & The International Avant-Garde, 2009, London, Tate Publishing, p38.

The Clement Greenberg quote is from “Modernist Painting”, in The Collected Essays and Criticism, vol. 4, Modernism with a Vengeance, 1957-1969, ed. John O’Brian (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), p17.