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The online editorial and curatorial project for reductive, geometric and systems artists working in the UK

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Tectonical


Fold Gallery,  London,  28 April - 3 June 2017


Review by Laurence Noga

Tectonic architecture examines a notion of collective futurity through the way it approaches its conception of space, habitation and the poetics of construction. Both the artists in this compelling exhibition at Fold Gallery, Asmund Havsteen-Mikklesen and Florian Schmidt, interrogate the implications of those utopian aspirations by engaging the audience with an exploration of surface, hidden meanings, and contradictory possibilities.


We particularly feel the influential lens of the Russian Constructivists and the Tecton Group, an architectural group led by Berthold Lubetkin (who designed the gorilla house and the penguin pool at London Zoo). I am intrigued by the way both artists use an embodiment of those material concerns and a dynamic sense of assemblage that underpins their paintings’ compositions and production.


Installation shot (L) Asmund Havsteen-Mikkelsen, Revolution, 2017, oil on canvas, 184 x 140 cm  (R ) Untitled (Vanish) 02, 2015. Acrylic, lacquer, vinyl, cardboard, wood 240 x 240 cm (Diptych: 2 plates, 240 x 120 each). Image courtesy Fold Gallery.

With Havsteen-Mikklesen we get some distance on that subjectivity. In Revolution (2017) the manipulation and organization of the spaces feels almost virtual. Shiny white surfaces that reflect light are combined with the application of cool receding drags of oil in turquoise, and softer but darker swathes of phthalo green. The proportions and the locations of the painting shimmer with what Hal Foster calls “the spatial allegories of a temporal crossing or historical change”.


Schmidt has a dynamic sense of assemblage in his sculpted reliefs which absorb the light with an uneven intensity. They have the presence of Robert Mangold’s early wall works such as Red Wall (1965), or the stark graphite lines subtly modulated in Column II (2006). Schmidt uses the Constructivists’ approach, in that the form of Untitled (Vanish) 02 is dictated by the materials, but we also sense the putting together of the pre-formed elements. The under-painting in grey allows the sloshy subsequent layers of raw sienna / red umber to hover within the matrix of the diagonal and rectangular planes stapled to the surface. It’s a monumental and complex work, with a system of overlapping serial strategies.

Asmund Havsteen-Mikkelsen The Temptation to Exist 2017 Oil on canvas 148 x 231 cm Image courtesy Fold Gallery and the artist

The Temptation to Exist (2017) has a sense of the phosphorescent light often seen in Dan Flavin’s ground-breaking light sculptures, with their fittings in commercially available colours. The atmosphere that Havsteen-Mikklesen  creates here functions through this kind of atmosphere. The important curved structures, lost in the shadows, are unobtrusively focal points in the painting. A great deal of the work is made up of sky and grass, but this is a fantastically conceived combination, situating the direct lighting and diffuse modelling of the shadow areas to activate a dramatic, edgy tension. We are angled into the rectangular windows with their slightly morbid signification.

Florian Schmidt, Untitled (Concurrent) 03 2015 Acrylic gel, lacquer, vinyl, cardboard, canvas, wood 114 x 74 x 24 cm. Image courtesy Fold Gallery and the artist

Schmidt also has an eye for unsettling combinations, and you can’t help but begin to read these two (closely-placed) works simultaneously. What infiltrates Schmidt’s construction Untitled (Concurrent) 03 (2015) is a feeling of uncertainty. The uncanny physical appearance is dependent on the found, and the industrially produced, in immediate proximity. I liked the porous nature of the cardboard in a mustard yellow against the flat wooden black construction (with shelf). This combination holds the viewer at a distance. It feels like an uninhabited space; it gives me a sense of the mysterious and forgotten; it talks about – as Bernard Stiegler says – “the industrial fabrication of time”.


Installation view: (L) Asmund Havsteen-Mikkelsen, Maximum View 2017 Oil on canvas 100 x 131 cm (R ) The Temptation to Exist 2017 Oil on canvas 148 x 231 cm. Image courtesy Fold Gallery.  

With Maximum View (2017) the depth of field brings about an eerie sense of isolation in the composition of this strange architectural vista. The character of the house and the scale of the work asks another question about its occupation. Have its occupants long since left the blinding monochrome whiteness of the building, and what have they left behind? With its frozen selection of colour and enhanced lighting with a suggestion of electricity, this work has an afterlife which questions both the architecture and the emotions and memories it elicits.


The stapling of the surfaces in Schmidt’s Untitled (Link) 03 and Untitled (Link) 04 allow a reading of the surface from above, and very close to the lacquered surface. It activates a map of memories guiding us across its territory. The approach initially has an intuitive quality; we sense that the process of creating each segment of the initial structure has been carried out at high speed. As the layers of acrylic are built up the journey is re-examined and we ask: “what are the implications of this reconfiguration?”  


The embodiment and history of architecture is fundamental to this exhibition. The differences in approach allow us to question the manipulation of made space and place, but it’s the physical impulse that resonates, drawing out memories through its uncanny presence.


Installation view (L) Florian Schmidt Untitled (Link) 04 2015 Acrylic, lacquer, vinyl, cardboard, wood 150 x 120 cm. Image courtesy Fold Gallery.