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Norman Dilworth | Time and Tide at Redfern Gallery
February 7 to March 2 2017
Review by John Stephens
There’s something really gratifying about looking at a well-
Norman Dilworth’s Around and About (1984) is such a work, except, being monochrome
white, it’s devoid of colour so has to depend on something else. It’s a circular
form made of wood painted white, with an asymmetric zigzag-
Around and About 1984 Wood painted white 122 x cm diameter
Discussing this work as it appeared in an exhibition at the Musée Matisse in 2007, Serge Lemaine noted how Dilworth ‘takes the rigour of programmes and adds the thrill of discovery’. And this pretty much sums up the different works, spanning almost six decades, in this Norman Dilworth survey show.
Four Cut Corners 3 (2010) is another piece that gets you thinking. It’s made of four
rectangles of rusted corten steel panels, with the corners truncated by different
amounts and at different angles. They are organised together in a two-
Four Cut Corners 3 2010, Corten steel 144 x 144 cm
The notes in the catalogue accompanying the show (originally from the catalogue to Sculpture and Reliefs 1972 – 1980) allude to Dilworth’s education, which was biased towards mathematics and science, as well as his interest in architecture, which shaped his attitude to making art:
“In the sixties I took the properties and dimensions of the elements as the starting point, and the organisation of elements in simple growth series (as simple as 2,4,6,8) now determined the character of the work…(with) the process…seen to develop within one single structure or series of structures”.
This gives an insight into the two drawings Cut Corners 1 and Cut Corners 2 (2005).
In these works, Dilworth uses an angular variation of the truncations of a square
to produce irregular octagonal shapes. In both drawings the asymmetric shapes have
a beautiful sense of poise; their dense graphite shading lends each of them the quality
of a solid form. It’s an excellent example of how a certain logic -
Cut Corners 1, Cut Corners 2 2005, Graphite on paper. Both 65 x 50 cm
Despite the eighteen years between them, Turning the Corner (2000), seems to have
some kinship with Round and About. It is made form the same corten steel pates arranged
in a grid; this time three by three. Each plate has an evenly truncated corner,
which appears in a different orientation in each section of the grid. The effect
is to suggest a larger square of steel formed of four plates to the top right and
having a small lozenge–shaped cut-
Turning the Corner 2000, corten steel. 89 x 89 cm
I began to realise that my experience of this exhibition was that while I was being
drawn in to the expression of an aesthetic, at the same time I was trying to work
out the intrigue of the individual pieces. And this was particularly true of the
sculptures. Three Cubes (2016) seems to me to be an example of how Dilworth has
carried into three dimensions the logic he’s used in the wall pieces. This work stands
like a totem pole, the three elements stacked, Brancusi-
Three Cubes 2016, Steel painted white. 90 x 40 x 40 cm
The same kind of engagement happens with 4, 21/2, 14 (2012) except that here the experience is of a rhythmic flow rather than an overall form. Still, you find yourself trying to work out how it works, and essentially it works because the interfaces between a series of wood blocks, each based on a double cube, offer a number of permutations for the overall arrangement. Dilworth explains it as:
“Starting from the proportion of the material, by cutting and joining methodically the process generated new forms”.
4 x 2 1_2 14 2012, Wood stained black 27 x 44 x 27 cm
Another piece, Signs (1990), provides an opportunity to engage with another approach
to Dilworth’s way of working; a way that is also evident in the series of gouache
drawings Two Areas Overlap (1978). Like the drawings, Signs is essentially linear
but with planar implications. It consists of a five-
Signs 1990, Wood painted black. In 25 pieces, each piece 15 x 15 cm
The bonus of this survey show is that it allows us to become aware of the consistency
with which Dilworth has applied the use of a system, or a logic, over six decades.
This is systems work at its best -