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Conversations around Marlow Moss and Parallel Lives: a review by Andy Parkinson
I think there is something rather ironic about seeing a great big cinema-
All the works in this show can be situated in relation to the Constructivist tradition
in which Marlow Moss was a worthy participant, but it’s a critical relationship,
questioning and perhaps even extending it. Modernisms keep renewing themselves by
continually criticising their own foundations. I suspect that new modernisms will
continue to find inspiration in their chequered pasts, and often by re-
Conversations Around Marlow Moss continues at &Model until 18 July and Parallel Lives: Marlow Moss and Claude Cahoun, continues at LeedsArtGallery until 7 September 2014.
Gregory Bateson, Mind and Nature, 1979
Liadin Cooke, Housement, 2010, Felt, Perspex, 100 x 200 x 21.5cm. Image by courtesy of the artist.
The imposing sculptural work of and take up most of the ground floor of this show so I spend some time with them on my way out of the exhibition.
Berendes Untitled sculpture in lacquered steel and brass reminds me of a screen and functions like one in this space by dividing the room in half diagonally, yet it counters such a purpose in that it’s “see through”. I think of it as a decorative screen that neither decorates nor provides privacy: an attractive object that counters its own suggested utility.
Cooke’s large scale relief in felt and Perspex entitled Housement provokes similar contradictions, being imposing, weighty, sculptural in scale whilst also fragile, soft and ephemeral in material and colour. It simultaneously affirms and denies its own materiality.
Eva Berendes, Untitled, 2012, steel, brass. lacquer, 220 x 90 x 60 cm, image by courtesy of the artist
The smaller works are painted on coloured Hessian, and whilst I am fairly sure that none of it actually shows through the opacity of the acrylic paint, I do think that it seems to add a new brightness to the paintings. The high colour of the Hessian on the sides of these immaculately painted objects casts a reflection on the wall and maybe that influences my perception of the colour, or maybe it’s simply the new colours that Blannin is using here that creates, for me, the impression of a change to a higher register or key.
Katrina Blannin, Bisected Double Hexad Rotation – Lemon/Delft Blue, 2014, acrylic on hessian, 30 x 25cm. Image by courtesy of the artist
What I get from Blannin’s paintings is the integration of intellectual and emotional experience, at least the part of experience that is to be had by looking at images and objects. Come to think of it, it may even be in the mediation of these two (image and object) that such integration takes place. I am trying to explain the felt pleasure (which I associate with emotion) that I am having when viewing or perhaps more accurately, studying (associated with intellect), these new works. I know it’s corny now to allude to “laughing out loud” but that’s close to the delight I am enjoying as I note the differences in scale, size and colour, and the sheer beauty of the objects themselves.
Over the last year or so, Blannin has introduced a demarcation line between the sections, and it adds first clarity and then nuance, on concentrated viewing, as the figure/ground shifts lead to constantly changing interpretations of the image.
Installation shot showing Katrina Blannin paintings and plinth with Adam Gillam intervention with Anthony Hill pages from Module, Proportion, Symmetry. Image by courtesy of Andrew Bick
Andrew Bick’s paintings may have a rather playful connection to the systematic, introducing what appear to be random markings, textures, colours, or materials, to a programmatic method of repeating the form and structure of a previous work. Sometimes the end result looks anything but rational, approaching Dada even! (Here, one of Bicks paintings is placed quite comfortably over a dishevelled stairway.) I might venture to suggest that his system is a stochastic one, wherein “a random component is combined with a selective process so that only certain outcomes are allowed to endure”. There is also playfulness in his references to the history of abstraction: as well as his Gillian Wise quotation mentioned earlier, his placing of a canvas across the corner of the gallery must surely be a nod to Malevich that I interpret as humorous rather than ironic.
There’s something Dada-
Seeing new paintings here by Katrina Blannin, I continue to be impressed by her work, not least by her commitment to her series of rotations of a bisected hexad. The variables are kept stable enough that learning can actually take place, yet there’s enough newness to create surprise and enjoyment.
Installation shot, Left: Maria Lalic, Sevres Blue Landscape Painting, Front: Rational Concepts portfolio of prints, Back Andrew Bick OGVDS–GW#2. Image by courtesy of Andrew Bick.
I find ' sequence of six canvases entitled Black Transformation painted
I am interested also by other works from the same era: as well as the wonderful 1977 Rational Concepts portfolio of prints (7 English artists: , , , , , , ) there's a delightful pastel colour study by and two of 's reliefs from 1968 in perspex mounted on wood, both 23 x 23 cm: Permutation of 4 Groups of 2 and Permutation of 4 Groups of 3, in which rational order and faktura combine to produce objects of staggering beauty.
The influence of these artists on and is self evident.
Installation shot showing portfolio on tables and Jeffrey Steele paintings on walls left: Syntagma Sg IV 117, right: Syntagma Sg 116, both 1991, pencil and oil on canvas, 122 x 122cm. Image by courtesy of Andrew Bick
Any conversation around Marlow Moss must surely reference Modernism, abstraction,
and specifically that strand of abstract art that we might group under the heading
of Constructivism, developing as she did "a Constructivism from the Russian movement
synthesised with Parisian Purism and Neo-
I find the large Black & White paintings by here, entirely convincing. It occurs to me that even in 2 dimensions, prints or paintings, systems are never composed, always constructed. Hence no individual part has compositional preference over another, or over the whole, we have a lack of hierarchy, every part functioning according to the purpose of the system. Every part is "determined", yet there is also a certain amount of "free" play provided by the near infinite variety of the permutations of system, as well as in the unpredictable phenomena of "emergence". The paintings are radically abstract yet also completely related to my lived experience of determinism within a system. If ever I needed persuading of the power, not to mention the beauty, of this approach these works amply achieve criteria, though you probably guessed that I am already fully persuaded.
Left: Andrew Bick, Mirror Variant Drawing #1, 2011 -
The lightbox sign of her name is itself an artwork, by , in the window of , the gallery almost directly opposite LeedsArtGallery, announcing the exhibition Conversations Around Marlow Moss, curated by and . The work Savage School Window Gallery seems to create both an invitation and a barrier at the same time, as does all good art.
Something similar happens for me viewing the first painting I see on the inside of
the gallery, a piece also by Cullinan Richards entitled Ian Poulter wore shocking
pink, and including a newspaper photo of Poulter beneath an abstract composition,
possibly based on (abstracted from) the colours in the photo. There's the hint of
a narrative, abstracted from a newspaper report, or perhaps even a headline, announcing
a narrative that is not actually fulfilled, now that only the photo and title remain,
of a piece that I must imagine actually existed. "Meaning" is context dependent,
and the change of context creates something like a jarring sensation for me as I
struggle to make sense of the object/image before me. Although I attempt simply to
observe, I keep on interpreting, and my own processes of interpretation keep on coming
to my attention. I am myself "abstracting" in the sense that I think ,
and may have understood the term, identifying at least
these levels of abstraction: observation, interpretation and judgement. I judge the
work to be good when it has this effect on me, of alerting me to my own seeing/thinking/abstracting
and in doing so bringing me "back to my senses" where I notice the colour and shapes
and materials, and also make an (probably incorrect) association with that 1915 Malevich
painting entitled Painterly Realism of a Boy with Knapsack -
Marlow Moss installation shot. Image courtesy of Leeds Art Gallery.
The paintings and constructions, currently on show at the Leeds Art Gallery exhibition
Parallel Lives (Marlow Moss and Claude Cahoun) are marvellous. I am particularly
impressed by the two paintings White Blue Yellow & Blue, 1954, a finished and an
unfinished version. Comparing the two, I gain information about her working method,
how the lines are drawn in pencil and 'filled in' with colour rather than using masking
tape, and how the white is applied last. (A gallery note contrasts Mondrian's method
of painting a white ground first.) recognised her 'double-
Cullinan Richards, Savage School Window Gallery, 2008 ongoing text: MARLOW MOSS, perspex and aluminium light box, 18 x 140 x 300cm with scaffold stand (dimensions variable). Image by courtesy of the artist
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