The online editorial and curatorial project for reductive, geometric and systems artists working in the UK
©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock All rights reserved.
Camberwell Space Projects, Wilson Road, London SE5 8LU
18 October – 18 November 2016
A review by Fiona Grady
‘Imperfect Reverse’ is a survey of geometric, reductive and systems art created by
UK artists since the 1960s. It acknowledges the roots of the movement by including
key figures such as Natalie Dower, Michael Kidner and Colin Cina, placing their work
alongside that of younger contemporaries. The exhibition is a collaboration by artist
and writer Laurence Noga with Saturation Point, and is inspired by the current movement
celebrating and connecting artists working in this particular field. The resurgence
in the appreciation of systems art is evidenced by the breadth of ideas, styles,
and approaches in this starting point, demonstrating that over the past 50 years,
the movement has managed to maintain a fresh and exciting approach. The groups of
artists selected here expand on this concept, and the exhibition presents an exciting
The title, Imperfect Reverse, is from a painting by Hanz Hancock, artist and co-
Natalie Dower, Three Triangles Series 2, 2016, oil on canvas, 66 × 132 cm. Courtesy of Eagle Gallery
Many of the artworks explore the use of rules to define the appearance of a work,
moving away from aesthetic concerns to let the process of painting take over. Natalie
Dower is a true traditionalist; her painting Three Triangles Series 2 (2016) maintains
the discipline which she established early in her career -
Marta Marcé, Now & Ever 38, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 40 × 40 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Riemaker Gallery
Jonathan Parsons, Chromaticity (3) 2016, oil on linen, 76 × 76 cm
Arrangement is key to both Sharon Hall and Estelle Thompson, who apply paint to create immaculate surfaces that allow the viewer to focus on the balance of colours and the relationships between forms. Jonathan Parsons’ Chromaticity (3) also plays with the balance of colour: instead of smooth perfection, his slippery lines of thinned paint reveal the brush strokes and the order of the various layers, setting into motion a feeling of movement on the surface. Andrew Bick explores this process further, scrapping away elements of the painting, then building up new elements in differing blocks of colour, to put in place an uneasy balance of forms. David Oates uses paints with a gentle touch in Kiss 29 (2015), teasing the reduction of a sphere; with each contact across the canvas, it shrinks to nothing and then regrows. The sphere also occurs in the painting by Carol Robertson, Star Time #4, in a precise form that is both abstract and symbolic; the use of colour alludes to a sense of the content lifting from the canvas.
David Oates, Kiss 29, 2015 oil on canvas, 120 × 114 cm
Carol Robertson, Star Time #4, 2015, oil on canvas, 45 × 45 cm. Courtesy of Flowers Gallery
The mathematical approach of ‘Imperfect Reverse’ is demonstrated in Equinox by Colin
Cina; this work helps to ease the viewer into the exhibition. This ideological influence
can also be seen in the works of Wendy Smith, Hanz Hancock and Patrick Morrissey,
who all use systems relying on numerical rules to introduce order to their works.
The delicacy of line can be seen in the Smith and Hancock drawings; they both use
a formulaic grid, but interest lies in what is left out. By exploring the gaps or
removed areas of the grid, the logic and movement of the drawings come into focus.
Less tightly composed, Morrissey’s repetition of geometric forms uses the balance
of contrasting colour to allow a strong shock of movement. Trevor Sutton also picks
up on this use of ordered blocks to co-
Patrick Morrissey, TQID series, 2016, acrylic on panel, 50 × 50 cm
Jane Bustin, Rose, 2015, oil, acrylic, polyurethane, copper, 30 × 42 cm
A common language occurs in many of these works; it is explored by Katrina Blannin,
whose line paintings imply more than a twisting shape; they also demonstrate an underlying
educated appreciation of composition, and seek to find an ideal balance of forms
within a painting. Both Nathan Cohen and Julia Farrer take this idea of composition
one step further -
Finbar Ward, Untitled (In Waiting Series), 2016, oil and enamel on linen, 93 × 140 × 12 cm
Nathan Cohen, In Sight, 2005, pigment and casein on cut panel, 83.2 × 64 × 2.5 cm
Despite the reductive nature of these works, the real world does creep in. Laurence
Noga’s collages, at first glance, are a sequence of coloured segments, but on closer
inspection the viewer sees the details of the magazines from which they are made.
The work suddenly becomes more figurative; the panoramic layout becomes spatial and
indicative of interior situations. Ian Monroe’s Glyph Glyph is part painting, part
sculpture; it follows a non-
Laurence Noga, 6 works including So Orange Filtered Violet, 2016, acrylic collage on panel, 15 × 30 cm.
Simon Callery, Punctured Chromium Oxide Flat Painting 2014-
Many of the ideas that exist within ‘Imperfect Reverse’ could equally well be regrouped, and a whole new set of relationships could be identified between the artworks. What is striking about the exhibition is that a simple set of rules can open up so many different possibilities. The project is testament to the imagination, technical abilities and variety of approaches that artists working around these conventions are exploring. The thoughtful curation demonstrates that systematic, reductive and geometric art is not a limited area of investigation. Essentially, a system or a rule is a starting point; it’s how the artist interprets and challenges it that creates the exciting outcomes evidenced in this exhibition. It would be great to see a similar exhibition staged in ten years’ time, to see how this line of thinking develops.
The exhibition continues at, until 21 January.