Author: Robin Greenwood

abstract sculptor

#73. Geoff Hands writes on “Terry Frost: A Book of Ideas” at Belgrave Gallery, St. Ives

Terry Frost installation

“Terry Frost: A Book of Ideas” at Belgrave Gallery, St. Ives, was at 19 June to 15 July 2017.

Gaining access to an artist’s sketchbook can be a rare opportunity. Even the artists you know personally might be reluctant to let you leaf through their, sometimes, intimate visual journals. Belgrave St Ives (with the Terry Frost Estate) have gone a stage further than merely displaying a book in a vitrine for this exhibition. A large format sketchbook (46.5 x 37.5 cm) of Frost’s has been dismantled and 30 out of 50 or so pages have been surface mounted and framed. The workbook covers much of the decade from the 1970s to 1981 and followers of Frost’s career will recognise several of the artist’s favourite subjects, for example ‘Suspended Forms’, the ‘Sun and Moon’ theme, and the ‘Lorca’ series.

Seeing the main body of this work (paintings and collages) almost simultaneously in the gallery allows a general sweep of all of the images, as well as more concentrated looking at individual pages. Some degree of comparison is also possible and the curators have carefully placed images alongside each other that have some sequential or common features that link them together thematically. In a few instances, double page spreads from the book had also been kept intact and the most bold and impressive of these were pages 104 and 105, a painted maquette for the subsequent woodcut, ‘Two Loves for Tredavoe’ (1999).

(more…)

#72. Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe writes on Nancy Haynes at Regina Rex, New York

“the painting undressed” 2011, diptych, oil on linen, 18 x 40 inches (all images courtesy of Regina Rex Gallery)

Nancy Haynes: This Painting Oil on Linen was at the Regina Rex Gallery, New York, 7 April – 14 May 2017

http://reginarex.org/exhibition.asp?exid=576

 

These Paintings Oil on Linen

I don’t think I’d go quite so far as to describe Haynes’ practice as “a form of prayer,” but I can see why Ken Johnston would say that.[1]   She has always made paintings that are impressive because of the way they’re painted, but in her newest work she has realized more intensely the kind of depth and movement she has worked with for a long time.  The surface is more delicate, its relation—more exactly, its active non-relationship—to its support more subtle.

Each of the paintings in this group is made of a generally horizontal movement, which takes place in several stages but proceeds in all cases from lighter on the left to darker on the right.  At the top and bottom things happen that qualify this movement, altering the way we see space and movement by changing the color and the surface.  Where most of the painting is made of layers of thin paint applied with a foam rubber brush, Haynes uses a tiny watercolor brush to make the marks or surface interruptions at the top and bottom.  Nothing moves quickly but some affects seem to emerge, or appear, suddenly.

In 1988 I said in connection with one of her paintings that dark spaces seem closer to one than light ones and that therefore it was (is) very hard to judge the relative space between the dark and the not so dark, because it’s a relationship between degrees of envelopment. [2] There is no distance of straightforwardly describable sort, it would be like saying which part of the sky was closer to one than another. It starts at your eye—where the outside most obviously enters your inside—and goes on from there.  We look into it, and Haynes talked about “disappearing into the painting” when we met to talk about these new paintings.  What disappears into it?  The viewer I think, oneself.  Its interiority takes you over not when you’re not looking but when you are.

(more…)

#71. John Bunker writes on Richard Smith, Work of Five Decades at Flowers Gallery, London

Installation View, upper gallery, Richard Smith – Work of Five Decades, Flowers Gallery, © Richard Smith Foundation, courtesy Flowers Gallery London and New York

Richard Smith – Work of Five Decades is at Flowers Gallery, Cork Street, London until 15th July 2017

https://www.flowersgallery.com/exhibitions/view/richard-smith-5

Richard Smith – Work of Five Decades is as rich and tantalising a show as it is modest and partial. Well chosen combinations of work signal original and singular twists and turns across Smith’s career. It was a chance to get up close to some of the later more delicate and intricate works loosely coming under the rubric of the “Kite” paintings. But there were also the more robust deliberately awkward painterly works that play explicitly with the grid and illusions heightened by intense colour-play. These contrasts and continuities in approaches did not disappoint – but in ways totally unexpected.

The biggest surprise came on encountering Smith’s Snakes and Windows filling the whole of the ground floor (upper) gallery space. I was taken aback by my initial reactions to what is essentially an installation piece because I was instantly reminded of my first encounter with Matisse’s Memory of Oceania and The Snail brought together in Tate Modern’s Cut-Outs blockbuster in 2014. In a note I’d made at that time about them both I said:

“…and finally found myself perplexed but totally engaged by the slow-motion collapsing architecture of Memory of Oceania. The Snail, according to the received wisdom of art historical myth-making, takes us to the cusp of a new kind of visual drama, one of colour and shape devoid of subject-matter adhering only to the shape of the canvas itself. Was this the future that Matisse had in mind for his Cut-Outs?”

(more…)

#70. Carl Kandutsch writes on Greenberg’s Homemade Esthetics

Pablo Picasso, “Mandoline et Clarinette”, 1913, Musée National Picasso, Paris

In 1971 Clement Greenberg offered nine seminar sessions at Bennington College. In an effort to develop the thoughts expressed at the seminar, Greenberg wrote eight essays that were published in various art magazines between 1972 and 1979. The seminar transcripts and the eight essays are collected in a book published in 1999 called Homemade Esthetics (Oxford, 1999). The essays are less formal than the reviews and essays published in Collected Essays and Criticism, and the focus is different. Rather than dealing with particular artists or trends in the art world, the essays in Homemade Esthetics are polemical and somewhat theoretical, analyzing the nature of esthetic experience and judgment, such as whether esthetic judgments can be “objective”, the nature of intuition and aesthetic value and so on. That is, the essays were written at a time in the recent past when a college student might take courses called “Esthetics” as opposed to, say, “Cultural Studies”.

The details of Greenberg’s views on esthetic experience are, for me, less interesting than the passion with which he articulates them. That passion reflects a lifetime of looking at paintings and sculptures and Greenberg’s commitment to a practice of art criticism that is based not on theories but on the author’s personal experience of particular works of art. It was his faith in the truth of his own intuitions that showed Greenberg the uniqueness and self-sufficiency of esthetic experience, just as a person’s experience of conversion teaches the nature of religious faith; his reading of Kant’s Critique of Judgment and Croce’s Esthetics only confirmed what he already knew – that intuition is the foundation of and provides the data for any genuine esthetic judgment. Although he is popularly known as the inventor and rather dogmatic proponent of a theory of modernism as the self-criticism of an artistic medium, Greenberg was always at his best when describing how particular art works or tendencies in art work on our minds by means of the eye. More than any other 20th century critic, reading Greenberg allows one to come to terms with the fact that in the experience of great art, it is as if the mind functions as an organ of sense and the eye as a source of intellectual conviction.

(more…)

#69. Paul Carey-Kent writes on Ding Yi at Timothy Taylor, London

Installation, Ding Yi at Timothy Taylor Gallery

The Hyper-Paredolian Ding Yi at Timothy Taylor, London, 19 May – 24 June 2017.

http://www.timothytaylor.com/artists/ding-yi/

Ding Yi, now in his 50’s, is one of the most established Chinese painters, but does not conform to the expressionist or  pop-inspired approaches which often seems to dominate the category, at least at auction. Rather, he has been painting abstracts using the cross – both ‘x’ and ‘+’ – as his sole content since 1988. The crosses’ origins lie in the most basic marks in offset printing (Ding’s student job was in the printing industry). That morphed into an interest in textiles – much of Ding’s late 90’s work was painted onto Paisley tartan, nodding to its import history in China.  Over those three decades Ding has altered almost everything – ground, medium, colour, scale, regularity, inflection – but all his works have been called Appearance of Crosses. That title suggests a façade, a field of sense data, and site of mutable interpretation: they may appear like crosses, but what are they really?

(more…)

#68. David Sweet writes on “Kaleidoscope: Colour and Sequence in 1960’s British Art” at the Longside Gallery and touring.

Kaleidoscope: Colour and Sequence in 1960s British Art, installation view at Longside Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park © artists and estates. Photo: Jonty Wilde. Left to right: William Tucker; Anthony Caro; Robyn Denny; Richard Smith

KALEIDOSCOPE: Colour and Sequence in 1960’s Art.  http://www.artscouncilcollection.org.uk/exhibition/kaleidoscope

Longside Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park. 1 April – 18 June 2017

Djanogly Gallery, The University of Nottingham. 15 July  – 24 September 2017

Mead Gallery, University of Warwick. 5 October – 9 December

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. 24 February – 3 June 2018

I’ve never liked Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The 1967 album seemed a betrayal of what the Beatles stood for, namely the authentic voice of the North of England, and signalled their transformation into a crypto-postmodernist bunch of dandified dilletanti. (Ringo excepted, obviously) I wasn’t crazy about the cover either, influenced by Peter Blake’s obsession with Victoriana, though the insert poster of the Fab Four in day-glo military uniforms was at least strong on colour.

Colour in the sixties was rationed, and experienced against the background of colourlessness. Now colour has triumphed. It’s everywhere, creating a totalised and vibrant chromatic context of what Goethe called ‘motley’. But in this exhibition, curated by Natalie Rudd and Sam Cornish, colour’s place, though central, is insecure and colourlessness comes back into the reckoning.

(more…)

#67. Richard Ward writes on Howard Hodgkin at the National Portrait Gallery, London

“Portrait of the Artist”, 1984-87

Howard Hodgkin: Absent Friends at the National Portrait Gallery 23 March – 18 June 2017

http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/howard-hodgkin-absent-friends/home/

The first thing to say about this retrospective is that it can be enjoyed quite simply as a thought-provoking exhibition of mostly abstract or semi-abstract colour paintings, even though the catalogue texts, titles and Hodgkin´s own remarks insist that they are portraits.

Hodgkin always maintained that the inspiration for each of his paintings was a very specific set of feelings concerning a particular person or situation. Accepting this, and also that he succeeded for himself in capturing these feelings in his art, does not however imply that we should have the same feelings on viewing it. The pressing of a visual button A to produce the specific emotion B is the modus operandi of kitsch, and these paintings are better than that. A painting has to work for itself, so whatever the specific situations that may have inspired Hodgkin, they are irrelevant to us here, and since it is hardly anywhere necessary to see figures in the paintings it is an unhelpful conceit for the viewer to regard them as portraits.

(more…)

#66. Noela James writes on Nick Moore exhibition “MaterialShift”, Nailsworth

Nick Moore installation

MATERIALSHIFT, an exhibition of the work of Nick Moore is showing at Ruskin Mill Gallery, Old Bristol Road, Nailsworth, GL6 0LA, 29th April – 23th May 2017

Ruskin Mill, situated in a wooded Cotswold valley beside a lake, is the perfect setting for Nick Moore’s latest exhibition, ‘MATERIALSHIFT’. The old stone interior, with a soot laden wall scorched by a primitive open fire, reflects the elemental quality of the earthy pigments Nick uses in his paintings/collages. These works stem from a series of paintings Nick rediscovered during a recent studio move. They were discarded canvasses and different from his earlier series, ‘Dark Intervals’ (which had focused on black and burnt umber as key components), in the sense that they had a revised colour palette of buff, Payne’s grey, red ochre and burnt umber. In this new series Nick has integrated added material into the fabric of the paintings and heightened the textural experience. He has used sacking, old roofing felt, PVA mixed with either sawdust or sand, crushed charcoal and ashes mixed with acrylic colour and ink, together with various moulded cardboard remnants that have been distorted and flattened to create areas of animated surface.

(more…)

#65. David Sweet writes on Losing Sight of Stella

Frank Stella, “Die Fahne hoche”, 1959

As someone who admires and was influenced by Frank Stella’s early paintings I get irritated by those who minimise his achievement and then congratulate themselves on their lack of interest in his work. If we lose sight of Stella, and his contribution to the history of abstraction, we may be doomed to a future consisting of a combination of Hans Hofmann and Pierre Soulages, a Druidical impasto fest, accompanied by necromantic invocations of Pissarro and Tintoretto, which goes on forever. There has got to be an alternative.

This is not an attempt to make anyone like Stella. Aesthetic judgements aren’t enforceable. But it is an attempt to throw a spanner into the machinery of rejection by following up on the challenge posed in Stella’s well-known remark ‘What you see is what you see’. So it concerns not aesthetics but phenomenology, what you see in Stella.

Stella’s technical originality shows up clearest in contrast to Barnett Newman. But they also have a lot in common. They were both making big paintings in New York at a time when American painting was a major cultural force. A progressive concept of history was also in play. The idea that painting could ‘advance’ in response to the best i.e. ‘most advanced’ work of the immediate past, made sense. Going ‘beyond’ Newman, therefore, was a reasonable motivation. What helped was that Stella wasn’t an Abstract Expressionist. He was free of the elaborate belief structure that surrounded the artists within that movement and found himself at the start of a new sensibility that eventually led to full-blown minimalism.

(more…)

#64. Geoff Hands writes on “Unnatural Vibers” at Unit 3 Project Space, ASC Studios, London

Peter Lamb, ‘A Slow Gaze Charged’, 2017;  John Bunker, ‘Frenhofer’, 2017.

“Unnatural Vibers” at Unit 3 Project Space, ASC Studios, London is open 2-5pm., on the 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21 of May 2017, or by appointment.

http://unit-3.tumblr.com/

Following the TESTING <1<2<1<2 group show at ASC studios a month or so ago, artist/curator John Bunker has devised another intriguing showcase to mix things up. This time he is co-curating with artist Michael Stubbs and together they selected painters who share a compulsion, not just for the construction or devising of the abstract image, but also for a generally speculative and performative rather than planned approach to image making.

Initially, Michael Stubbs, Dominic Beattie, Vicky Wright, Peter Lamb and Bunker himself may not seem like an obvious combination. But even a relatively small show of this kind (just nine pieces) provides a potpourri of sorts, and proves that diversity can gel successfully where a common thread of serious endeavor and an ability to formulate a primary visual impact, is paramount over associative, figurative narratives.

Their work shares a sense of questioning through a building process and of the construction of the pictorial image to act as a trigger for the viewer to adjudicate from. As the various constructional processes unfold, with collage and paint, traces of earlier decisions are superseded, but not entirely replaced or buried so as to preserve a sense of history or a past state that can still contribute to an evolving situation. A collage aesthetic, and means of realisation, enables past, present and future to combine or collide. The future, it could be argued, is present in the viewing of the image and the onlooker’s response.

(more…)