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Alan Charlton | Grey Paintings

Annely Juda Fine Art, London, 13 Sept - 3 Nov 2018

Observations by Fred Sorrell

©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock  All rights reserved.

Arriving at Annely Juda on a late sunny afternoon, I enter the gallery space to encounter the work of Alan Charlton for the first time. After having been bombarded by the cacophony of noise and sensory stimulation of Oxford Street it took me a minute to tune in to the quiet beauty emanating from these canvasses.

To make work of this nature takes absolute commitment to and belief in pure, dynamic, pictoral forms, acting in space, which are fundamental to the reading of paintings. These dynamic forms take centre stage in terms of the pure, plastic energy they harness.

My immediate sense of connection to the work stemmed from relating it to the architecture on my journey here, as well as from my being in the gallery space itself, where these large works imposed themselves along the walls, making me aware of my size in relation to them.

Installation view, 4th floor. Courtesy Annely Juda Fine Art, London

Constructed using a methodical approach that lays bare the materials they are made from – wood, canvas, graphite and pigment – there is a lyrical quality here that transmits to the viewer. Built up gradually using thin washes of paint, the works displayed are painted in one of two greys, one medium-light and one medium-dark. For me, the way this grey invigorates the form i.e. the action of the work in relation to its placement, gave me a real sense of the artworks’ dynamism. Two different densities of tone complete a triumvirate, alongside scale and form, in contributing to the overall spatial tensions between the elements in each piece and its surrounding space.

Installation view: Border Painting, Triangle painting no.3, Triangle in 6 parts, 3rd floor. © the artist. Courtesy Annely Juda Fine Art, London

In the segmented works, the canvas edges seem to subtly pinch the white ‘veins’ between segments, in and around angles and along edges. This leads to a change of speed, within which my eye was able to engage with these works, supporting the form and giving a direction to it. The depth of the canvas edges emphasise this contrast to the wall, reinforcing the force of the forms.

If the works on the first floor are an orchestral quintet, a quiet ode to scale and form, the second floor turns the volume up, expanding on the theme. I particularly felt the sense of freedom and ease in Charlton’s Hanging Canvas Isometric Triangle series of five works, hung together in a contained room off the main open space.

For me, the intrigue here lay in my questioning the sense of plane reinforced by the tone of grey used alongside the differentiating scales of each triangular form, giving this perception of changing distance. Framed by a weightless piece of fabric, these simple forms give the room a fantastic sense of space and ease.

Border painting (5 parts) © the artist. Courtesy Annely Juda Fine Art, London

Isometric Triangle nos. 4 and 5. © the artist. Courtesy Annely Juda Fine Art, London

Perhaps there is also a lesson here in how to balance our sense of scale and distance through proportion and tone, with the larger, lighter triangles appearing equidistant to the smaller, darker ones. The works here seem freer; removing the depth of the stretcher allows them to operate in a more continuous visual plane, so that they inhabit the space in the way a wall painting might. Removing this separation alters how the work acts in conjunction with the surrounding white space.

Approaching this work, in all its subtle refinement, brings me back to the pure, dynamic relationships of these plastic forms. This work is about more than observation; it is about seeing rhythms and making connections. The works of Alan Charlton emanate from a place in which he filters his own human experience; where architecture, nature and thought combine. This comes together here in a well-composed show, the drawings and paintings from across the years giving a rounded view of a strong body of work.

Painted and unpainted (2018). © the artist. Courtesy Annely Juda Fine Art, London