The online editorial and curatorial project for systems, non-
He had little time for small talk. His tone, soft-
Music, in its many moods, modes, manifestations – ancient, contemporary, jazz, experimental
Rest. Silence. Near silence. These are to music what darkness and shadow are to pictorial
and architectural space. No coincidence that it is to the concerted exploration of
fleeting registrations of light through finely calibrated shadows, that KR-
On these and other matters, KR-
Respondents habituated to reading works of visual art as touching expressions of
deeply felt human emotion could certainly find some of KR-
The invitation to participate in such a process is one of the most touching gestures
one human being can extend to another. The temper of the times in which I worked
As some of the numerical orders, of which only a tiny ‘moment’ is framed by some
If the above paints a portrait of a subject too ascetically saintly to be true, I
will say immediately that KR-
As any reader of Proust will attest, habit is a powerful force. KR-
Although he enjoyed the stimulation of discussion and working collaboratively, KR-
There is no shortage of accounts of the high times and wry times in the pubs and
clubs, of the NYC pastimes of abstract expressionism’s radical, groundbreaking, original
. . . improbably heroic-
But what of KR-
The dominant culture is fine with celebrating art’s social dimension, so long as
the jollity is confined to the informal domain of the pub, the club, the semi-
As a student and in early teaching posts, KR-
There was obviously something in Modernism’s challenge to the dominant order in the
idea of artists working together, that appealed to KR-
So we have a person of taste with a commitment to working collaboratively who is wary of having to sign up to a set of ‘founding principles’ in order to identify as a member of a group.
The mix of qualities and skills outlined above equipped KR-
Initiated and run mainly by artists, it had no fixed roles or centralised leadership
structure. One hour, any participant could find him or herself leading a cross-
A highly attuned sense of absurdity, such as that exhibited by KR-
When “Exhibiting Space” was in session, he would, each month, make the 260 mile round trip to London from his fastness on the Welsh bank of a meander of the river Wye, near the Cistercian abbey of Tintern. He was always in the company of his London hosts, close friends and fellow constructive artists, Malcolm Hughes and Jean Spencer. All remained indispensible participants from 1985 until the project took in its shingle in 1989.
William of Occam (c. 1287 – 1347) was an English Franciscan friar and scholastic philosopher. He is famed for formulating the law of extreme parsimony known as ‘Occam’s Razor’ that enjoins the philosopher to: ‘Posit no more entities than are necessary’. Even so unforgiving a creed is open to different interpretations, one of the more obvious of which is the shaving away of all superfluous, extraneous, decorative gesture.
A close shave with colour – in the commonly understood sense of the term – early in the turn to constructive practice, was resolved by dispensing with it. First cut: green.
In < Series 288 24/18 (ii) 6/8/10/9/7/5, 80 x 80 cm Acrylic on canvas, Arts Council
Collection???>, what counts will be demarcated in uninflected matt black paint on
Etymological shavings. The term ‘fugue’ comes from the Latin ‘fugere’ – ‘to flee’, so it freights with it notions of impermanence and displacement. We speak of colours that change over time as ‘fugitive’; of those on the run from justice as ‘fugitives’; of those displaced by injustice as ‘refugees’.
In contrast to the so-
Sure as dawn shades into dusk, the areas occupied by the black elements begin to
look too great. They too would become so many occlusions, opacities, cover-
To ‘dig’ the materiality of surface, as the jazz fraternity might have put it, meant undigging it. The surface’s surfacing, if you will, had already been signalled by the reduction of the black monochromatic fields of Series 288, to lines – a move that foregrounded more of the support. <cf. Blue and red line work>
Thereafter, lines ruled on canvas or paper surfaces will replace area as marking the rules of predetermined numbering, measuring and sequencing systems. (For all that counting and number appear to grant the measure of things a reassuring certainty, there’s something immeasurable going on here.)
Rules marking rules. Or, more properly, a non-
Red and blue – a nod, perhaps, to the Yin and Yang of Eastern metaphysics -
Next, the act of ‘drawing on’ the too-
In this period the canvas or paper support is divided into three, four or more columns,
each hosting a different numbering system. Once in a while, a single column will
host two numbering systems, each assigned its own colour: red or blue. In the works
on paper, lines are drawn to mark the divisions between columns. Such lines are not
strictly necessary to the marking of ‘system’. They represent an uncharacteristic
A nod also to the non-
As the eye travels across the surface from left to right, the density of lines in
each successive column increases. Typographers speak a font, even if it is black,
assigning a block of text its distinctive ‘colour’. Different font densities produce
different colours. Understood in this way, the typographic explorations of KR-
Then there’s the distinct impression of gazing through a portal onto a strictly regulated process capable of endlessly repeating itself beyond the physical limits of the drawing. Respondents in thrall to the good Bishop Berkeley’s subjective idealism are left with the disconcerting sense of having come across a process that could continue in their absence.
I’m thinking of some larger, two-
Each panel is made from Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF) to which very fine, primed
linen has been marouflaged. Each appears to have been measured and marked – spatialised-
For the sake of argument, let’s say that in the case in point, counting departs from
a common point of origin at the top of each three-
At various conjunctures, the lines marking the order within each panel come tantalisingly
close to resolving as a single straight line running across the entire surface. Ultimately,
though, these would-
Writing on his reliefs, KR-
Acrylic paint will not do. Too tacky. Skin too plasticky. Too glossy. Nightmare to
spray. Titanium white? Too translucent. Too vacant. Althogether too white. KR-
The ‘drawing forth’, the uncovering and foregrounding of the supposedly neutral, white ground of painting, marked a significant step in his ‘critique’ of the practice of painting as a kind of polychromatic cover up.
Etymologically the term ‘relief’ carries within it the trace of its old French origins.
Relevé means ‘lifted up’, ‘built out’, the ‘projection of a figure from the ground’.
In terms of relief construction, the German way of Ewerdt Hilgemann and the Dutch
way of Ad Dekkers in the early ’70s would be his model. In his quiet, deliberative,
cunning way, he would push the formal issues announced in the work of the above relief
makers further than either. The relationships between figure, ground, plane, line
and edge, would all be subjected to relentless re-
In these, the role of quill and brush has been usurped by plunge router and industrial spray gun. Straight horizontal lines running the length the MDF panel are routed out of its thickness. The impression is of virtual lines made material and held in vision through being routed out, absented from matter. Lines of absence without origin or end. Complex absence, a ‘hollowing out’ internally differentiated by shadow, cast by the top lip of the groove, and reflected light, from the bottom lip. The numbering systems deployed foreshadow the respondent’s attempts to read between, to get the measure of the distance between the lines. These systems are differentiated in two ways: setting the router bit at different depths, and using router bits of different diameters.
The routed panel is treated to a just off-
Too white, too bright and the experience of reading becomes a glary, painful business.
Too matt, too shiny? More problems. Too tempered? Lose quality of shadow. In terms
of time and effort, it’s a high expenditure economy. Pieces that fail to meet KR-
Vision is as much a cultural and historical construct as a physiological phenomenon. Any claim to the contrary fails to recognise its own scotoma.
Despite their cool look, these reliefs call into question strategies of reading that depend on physical, as well as aesthetic distancing. Detachment militates against the work’s passionate interrogation of its surrounding environment, an interrogative process in which the reader is invited to participate.
Inured to the poor design and general shabbiness of the physical environment by quotidian
visual habits, the act of looking-
Dishabituated in and by the peculiar intensity of the gaze that, ‘paradoxically’,
some would say, KR-
The unglossed vision of the quotidian norm -
Relief making of the kind KR-
With the ungrounding of the ground of painting, the foregrounding in these late counter-
Suffice to say that the possibly irresolvable question of blanc, blank(et) monochrome
whiteness in relief making was one to whose resolution KR-
Were he with us still, reflection on the question of what it might take to make a
surface coating of the requisite order of whiteness for the work at hand would no
doubt continue to absorb KR-
In the project of Modernity to which KR-
Read in a certain way, the work of KR-
And so to another order, another reading, another order of reading.
9th November 1987. Morning. Bright.
The weekend just past saw the staging of ‘Ricercare’, a joint presentation featuring
the work of visual artist Keith Richardson-
A pale, salmon pink relief by KR-
These beautiful reliefs are the culmination of KR-
Picture, in the conventional sense of the term, has never really featured. Image
too has been problematised, relief itself re-
Here the horizontal shadowlines-
The look is of a kind of deconstructed music stave. It departs from the five-
These measured, shadowy lines of a score have another valence. They hold in tension the respondent’s desire to fetishise surface, commodify it, make it One. No transcendence. Relevé, Aufhebung – in question.
Reflection as shadow, held in tension, affect-
They will bear the name ‘Reflections’. Later, some – circular in form – will bear the name ‘Inscriptions’.
And the oblique reading? Shadowlines-
It’s a low-
We turn again, with relief, to our relief.
The experience is intense, unsettling. What’s with the salmon pink? Wearing the old
rose tinted specs again? Re-
It dawns. The rays of a wintery sun, low in the south, are reflecting off the redbrick
building, tinting the ambient light in the room. This is caught in and re-
The otherworldly clarity and precision of execution of KR-
The regulated economy marked in the scorings, the absences that traverse the surface
of the relief make visible and constitute a ‘critique’ of de-
Blink and you’ve missed it. Sun gone, behind cloud or building, taking with it that
fleeting experience of that fugitive tint. Intimation of fugue-
These works demand time. Time to linger in time. Not to be too hasty to dig down to the unchanging certainties of the ‘underlying’ system. Remain with surface. Remain in light.
And maybe for KR-
So, gentle respondent, take your time and give your time to working through the gentle
but insistent presence of this work. Clear any notion that there’s some kind of diffidence
at play. Open up to the tough-
G R Thomson
G R Thomson is a painter, writer, polemicist and educationalist.
Series 288 24/18 (ii) 6/8/10/9/7/5, 80 x 80 cm Acrylic on canvas, Arts Council Collection
©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock All rights reserved.