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The Order of Things
The Wilson, Cheltenham, 28 Jan – 5 March 2017
Review by Andy Parkinson
"Between language and the theory of nature there exists therefore a relation that is of a critical type; to know nature is, in fact, to build upon the basis of language a true language, one that will reveal the conditions in which all language is possible and the limits within which it can have a domain of validity." Michel Foucault
In Foucault’s The Order of Things, from which this exhibition derives its title,
we continuously encounter the paradox of self-
Here, 13 international contemporary artists, whose approaches vary in relation to technique, medium and aesthetic, concern themselves with the codes, systems and relationships that order the world and our perception of it.
What’s real and how we know it is real seems to be a sub-
Installation view, Rana Begum, No 703, 2017, acrylic on MDF. Image by courtesy of the artist, photo copyright Andrew Bick
In Rana Begum’s No 703 (2017), 54 MDF rectangles are arranged in a 9 x 6 cell grid that appears to generate its own light. In each piece, two colours diagonally bisect the rectangle, creating three coloured triangles and a triangle of bare MDF. The statement is simple and precise. It could be said that “what you see is what you see”, yet ambiguities arise. My eye/brain links the repeated colour/tones across the grid, creating larger diagonal bands across the surface. I perceive them as shadows. However, the way that light catches the individual rectangles means that there are also real shadows. It’s difficult to differentiate between the two types of shadow. There are also optical grey ‘shadows’ in the interstices between each of the individual rectangles. I am seeing a lot more than simply what I see, as my own perceptual process comes into view.
Begum’s No 480 (2013) is made up of 20 painted aluminium bars in vertical orientation,
forming what looks like a stripe painting constructed of real stripes. The front
of each bar is painted black, but each side has part of a graduated design painted
on it so that, when viewed from the left-
Neil Zakiewicz, Onefold, 2016, paint on wood. Image by courtesy of the artist
I think there is something similar happening in the works here by Neil Zakiewicz.
Both are made of spray-
I test what I think I know by viewing from multiple positions, and by checking out my experience with someone else, who is also doing the same thing. She goes on to tell me that there is a painting upstairs that is situated high up on the wall so it is seen from the perspective of looking up, and that it’s such a beautiful painting everyone is talking about it. She is referring to the painting by A.K. Dolven, entitled Teenagers Lifting the Sky (2014), oil on aluminium, a grey expanse punctuated by marks that suggest they may have been made by a few people, perhaps simultaneously, jumping up and hitting the surface with their painted or dirty fingers.
Installation view, left: A K Dolven, Teenagers Lifting the Sky, 2014, Oil on Aluminium;
right: Rana Begum, No 480, 2013, Paint on Powder-
The white flag blowing in the wind against a backdrop of white cloud, in Edith Dekyndt’s
video, doesn’t lift the sky; it struggles even to make its presence felt, like Malevich’s
white on white. Once apprehended it exerts a calming, meditative influence. An imageless
object, a flimsy ground upon which there is no figure, is itself a figure framed
by the edges of the projection. Clearly located within the monochrome tradition,
it is as much a nod to the drapery of classical painting as it is to the un-
Swiss artist Daniel Robert Hunziker’s works are real-
In the two paintings by Jonathan Parsons, the imagery is derived from the tradition
of gestural abstraction, already translated into the real-
Installation view: Jonathan Parsons, One Forty, 2004, oil on linen. Image by courtesy of the artist, photo copyright Andrew Bick
The four two-
Installation view: paintings by Maria Lalic, photo copyright Andrew Bick
In Adam Gillam’s sculptural pieces, word and thing are whimsically united: “Oh, OK
Then” is the title of the works as seen together in this space. It was Gillam’s verbal
response to being invited to exhibit, and the assemblages themselves are fashioned
after these same words in a literal sentence-
Guy Bigland plays with systems and codes, in his text works (digital prints and books) and paintings. In AA to ZZ (2014), all possible pairings of the letters of the alphabet are sequenced in grid format with AA in the top left hand corner and ZZ at bottom right, showing all 576 combinations. What ensues is visually stunning, revealing patterns that surprise me.
Installation view, Guy Bigland, Artists book: All the Paintings in the Museum, on AA to ZZ, photo copyright Andrew Bick
In his Solutions paintings, language, data and instructions are trans-
Solution Text (2014) provides the reader with instructions for making a solution painting. It is written as a stream of upper case text without punctuation. Reading it requires a continuous act of decoding, repeatedly bringing to attention my own interpretative strategies, in a way that includes humour, game and play.
There is something playful in Andrew Bick’s paintings and drawings that form an ongoing
conversation with the British Constructionists and Systems Group of artists. Bick’s
Installation view, Andrew Bick drawings and Rational Concepts set. Image by courtesy of Andrew Bick
John Wood and Paul Harrison’s 1993 video Board, in which the artists manoeuvre an 8’ by 4’ board across a white space, is like a dance routine, with a prop (albeit a rather uncompromising one), with the challenge of manipulating it emerging as the theme, along with the delight in sequence and repetition reminiscent of the permutations so beloved of systems artists.
There’s a strange choreography in the paintings of Katie Pratt, whose dance is between
chance and intention. Starting with a casual gesture or with the spilling of paint
onto canvas, the artist then creates rules to develop the work, based on her observation
of patterns within the apparently random event. She adheres to her rules almost mechanically,
allowing the painting to be the result of a set of procedures combined with a few
aesthetic choices made along the way. The gestural mark or paint spill is encircled
or otherwise navigated via a series of embroidery-
(1) See Non-
Katie Pratt, Poole, 200-