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The online editorial and curatorial project for systems, non-objective and reductive artists working in the UK

Website: Chestnuts Design

Time of Day : Trevor Sutton at the Eagle Gallery

10 Sep – 9 Oct 2015


A review by Laurence Noga

©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock  All rights reserved.

“All these years later many of these early concerns have resurfaced….the grid, the colour field, a minimalist sensibility”

Trevor Sutton


Grids are powerful structures in our lives; they bring a formal implication to the reading of a landscape or a place, opening up a phenomenology that we have buried in the layers of our memory. The memory of a place, its implications, the passing of time spent observing its events, and the thoughts that occur, run parallel to the structure of the everyday.


Trevor Sutton’s current work at the Eagle Gallery is insistent and spellbinding - the work looks fresh and has a finely-tuned temporal mobility. That specificity of atmosphere is partly due to a sense of place, as the works on paper were made over a period of time spent by Sutton at a residency in the west of Ireland (County Mayo). Equally important are the studio rituals and rules that synthesize his approach (mutability/ geometry /an empirical system). This combination builds a tension, and the illusion of a deep surface structure within the paintings. But, critically, Time of Day revives the intensity first seen in Sutton’s grid paintings in the 1970s.

Golden Morning, 2014 oil and pencil on board 94 x 127cm

Sutton was then producing paintings such as I.R.W. and I.R.S. These are works in acrylic and pencil on paper, pared down to a non-colour space, temporally and spatially distorted. Although flat, they have the feeling of reliefs, perhaps reflecting the series Counter Rhythms and Levels by Gillian Wise, in which she develops a regenerative quality. Sutton’s other series from that time uses angled two-colour combinations, the colours bringing to mind the barely-distinguishable, mysterious hues of Ad Reinhardt.


The early work has a proportional interdependence, which is key to the larger diptychs in this show. Golden Morning and Daylight Devotion seem to exude both solitude and sociability. Each colour segment is considered, both works are very closely toned and bring into focus the central line between the panels (as does the body of the work in this show).The colour field in the right-hand panel fuses with the scaffolding in the left hand, locking us into the spatial matrix and the exactness of the proportions, moving the work towards a sense of corporeality. The decisions of the painter are complex, and suggest a controlled cycle, with traces of nostalgia. Sutton’s ‘tuning-into’ the artists he admires, such as James Hugonin and Roger Ackling, feels like a presence supporting his decisions and his innovation.

In the smaller works, on board, Sutton uses his perception of interior architectural spaces - particularly Japanese. In these memory-images he creates the sense of a relationship between the systematic (not systems) and the intrinsic meaning. Here the 70s works re-emerge in terms of the line and the pencil pressure itself. The action again unfolds from the centre, in terms of the surface structure and the individuality of the colour. The acidity in Summer Wind hints at the language of nature, but is also sensory, in terms of the sweep of oil colour that sinks and oscillates across the surface.


Irish Shadow, 3 2015 oil and pencil on paper 51 x 51cm

In Irish Shadow the eye takes time to adjust to the look of the surface and the quality of the ambient sound. The all-over grid structure is widened in places to open a window into the deeper space beyond, in a dissipative moment. Irish Shadow (night) also suggests a greater sense of improvisation within the colour segmentation, unified by the inlay of sound and a sense of collective history, sharpening our responses.


This show is a defining moment for Sutton; he seems to be ‘locking in’ his past, as his current work collides with memory of earlier times. These paintings’ haunted quality stays with you, merging past observations with this totally new experience.


Laurence Noga, Oct 2015

Irish Shadow - Night, 2015 oil and pencil on paper 35.5 x 61cm

May 2, 2015 oil and pencil on board 20 x 30.5cm

I.R.W. 1977, acrylic-pencil-paper

Daylight Devotion, 2015 oil and pencil on board 94 x 127cm

May 2 feels closest to the 70s works (Arlington House 1977).  It has a feeling of John Cage and his early minimalist compositions. The washed-out non-colour on the right-hand panel again fastens one’s sense of an emotionally-perceived image, with its situation and mood meticulously recorded. Sutton has a wonderful facility with elusive colour, true to the materiality of his paint, and with an almost weightless fluidity in its layering and opacity, juxtaposed with the Ellsworth Kelly flatness -  which has depth.