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Carol Robertson | Pointstar
Flowers Gallery, Cork Street, London. 3 May – 3 June 2017
Review by Laurence Noga
Installation shot, Courtesy Flowers Gallery
The mesmeric radiance of Carol Robertson’s remarkable 2016 painting Light from Light transforms both the window of Flowers Gallery and the changing environment of its Cork Street location.
The composition of the work, with its underlying properties of conscious experience, immediately grips us in a macrocosmic gaze. We are faced with a question: do the painting’s signification and its refined parameters contain an underlying psychological construct, which might trigger a contradictory interpretation? A perceptual reading of the work can evoke an external reality for the viewer. For me, this brings to mind the Soviet Union’s 1957 launch of its first satellite (Sputnik 1). Measuring just 58 cm in diameter, the polished metal sphere had four external radio antennas to broadcast its radio pulses. Its launch accelerated the space race, and to some extent symbolised the technological and scientific innovations of that time.
Robertson therefore leads us beyond the visible, not only through the realisation
of the system, but through lived or formed attachments to particular memories. The
unifying notions of symmetry are key to the success of the painting. Its eighteen
isosceles triangles in a flatly-
Light from Light (large), 2016, Oil on canvas (C) Carol Robertson Courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York
Carol Robertson, Star, 2016, Oil on canvas, (C) Carol Robertson, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York
Once inside the gallery space, the acceleration and oscillation of the works become
more apparent, as does the movement of their locational relationships, and we notice
the number of star points -
Carol Robertson, Quadrille 2, 2016, Oil on board, (C) Carol Robertson, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York
Carol Robertson, Quadrille 1, 2016, Oil on board, (C) Carol Robertson, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York
There is a feeling of that glide across space in Robertson’s work Quadrille (2016. oil on board). The very pale sienna is applied in a thin transparent glaze, and the striated structure reminds me of the approach of Geoffrey Smedley (who was part of the Systems group in the constructivist tradition). Smedley talked about an equation between the systematic and the elusive. “Quite apart from any evidence of the systematic procedures, which determined the creation of the work we are bound to read the work as it stands: that is to say, we are confronted with instances of simple codes which by virtue of their intersection and redundance, resist the spectator’s attempt to disentangle them”.
The quadrille was a fashionable dance in Europe in the late 18th and 19th century, slow and stately, performed by four couples in a square formation. The painting has the same sense of expectation, as if we are about to observe a rationale that will dictate a sequence of events. The four envelope shapes point towards the empty space and the shifting connectivity between the individual elements: this is the imagined repetition of the dance.
Carol Robertson, Vega, 2017, Oil on canvas. (C) Carol Robertson, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York
Vega is the fifth brightest star in the night sky. Similarly, the painting Vega and
its Pointstar companions have a powerful sense of attraction. The nine-
Carol Robertson, Pointstar White, 2016, oil on canvas. (C) Carol Robertson, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York
I like the scale and density of the smaller paintings (20 x 20 cm). In Point Star (small), the colour is more saturated and the push and pull calls to mind the work of Paul Klee’s Fire at Full Moon, painted in 1933. This row of works feels, at first glance, intrinsically linked together. But as we stay with them, they seem to operate in a mutually exclusive relationship. Robertson has subtly allowed the spectator to experience their individual moments and pitch, while enabling us to encounter their relationships as a single entity.
‘Pointstar’ is an exhibition with a lasting intellectual cognition. The differentiation and complexity in each work draw us into the detail and the operational paradigms. But it’s the correlation between systematic persistence and the formative relationships perceived in nature that elicit the most memorable response.