The online editorial and curatorial project for systems, non-
At Loud & Western Building, 65 Broughton Road, SW6 2LE, April 2015
A review by Andy Parkinson
©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock All rights reserved.
From Centre, an exhibition of reductive abstract works, curated by Saturation Point and Slate Projects, was on view at The Loud & Western Building from 11 April to 26 April 2015, showing the following artists:
Installation shot, from left to right works by Laurence Noga, Patrick Morrissey and Martin Church. Image by courtesy of Slate Projects.
It’s an impressive line-
Installation shot, works from left to right by Natalie Dower, Martin Church, Julia Farrer, Rhys Coren, Laurence Noga. Image by courtesy of Slate Projects
Thinking about abstraction’s continued relevance may require me to at least mention
Zombie Formalism (“Formalism, because this art involves a straightforward, reductive,
essentialist method of making a painting and Zombie because it brings back to life
the discarded aesthetics of Clement Greenberg”), if only to suggest that the term,
coined by artist-
The reductive (but not necessarily essentialist or straightforward) works on view at From Centre seem to me to be a genuine attempt at continued participation in a living, although contested, tradition.
Installation shot, works from left to right by Julia Farrer, Robin Seir, and Tess Jaray. Image by courtesy of Slate Projects
In Dower’s 2013 Painting Polymorph, a subtle pink rectangle is halved down the middle,
from which the central point of a pale yellow circle is found, and within that circle
a white rectangle beneath an irregular black triangle are positioned. Or maybe there
is no ‘above’ or ‘beneath’; a rectangle within a circle is divided into three different
shaped triangles, two white and one black. Alternatively, we simply have a rectangle
divided into nine other shapes. The figures and their relationships are not random
but calculated mathematically, the parts being strictly determined by the whole,
to my mind the most elegant definition of a system. The painting has subtlety, serenity,
beauty and a little excitement too, with its alternating views and the slight after-
Natalie Dower, Polymorph, 2013, oil on canvas, 61 x 86.5 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist.
Other artists here who employ mathematical or numerical systems include Peter Lowe,
a former member of the 1970s Systems Group founded by Malcolm Hughes and Jeffrey
Steele. He defines systems in his work as “a way of communicating an intelligible
idea in terms of shapes, colours and forms, or an organisation principle that I predetermine
and allow to run to see what the outcomes will be…” In his painting here, Triangles
within a Dodecagon, he takes the regular twelve-
Installation shot, from left to right, works by Peter Lowe, Rana Begum and Nathan Cohen. Image by courtesy of Slate Projects
There are shifting gestalts in Rana Begum’s painted relief, No. 317; the actual three-
In Giulia Ricci’s Order Disruption Painting there’s something strange going on spatially; the patterned repetition of a triangular motif creating something akin to a systemic field which breaks down in places as the pattern is interrupted, resulting in the appearance of wormholes or spatial anomalies that can also be interpreted as twisting forms caught in the net of the surface, whilst at the same time forming that surface. For me, her work explicitly links system to visual pattern.
Giulia Ricci, Order/Disruption Painting no.2, 2012, Laser engraved laminated board and acrylic paint, hand painted, 61 x 101 x1.8cm, Edition of 3. Image by courtesy of the artist
All the artists in this show, perhaps to varying degrees, share an interest in system
and/or series. The two tend to go together when a numerical system is being explored.
But Julia Farrer’s Knot in Time seems more to be the product of an entirely empirical
enquiry. In both approaches I think there is a search going on, not for the one definitive
statement but rather for knowledge. The traditional notion of the masterpiece is
challenged, just as it seems totally out of step with our post-
And yet, each work in this exhibition does command attention as its own thing; perhaps the title of Carol Robertson’s painting Aura is suggestive of this. While in the work different coloured bands surrounding a circle might be likened to an aura, I wonder if that famous Walter Benjamin opposition between mechanical reproduction and the aura of the single artwork is also being referenced. Paradoxically, the serial methodology both challenges and upholds the singularity of each individual piece: singular within series, one but not all.
There may exist differences in emphasis between the generations represented in this
exhibition. Perhaps the older artists show more interest in structure, in comparison
to the younger ones, who may appear as interested in the breakdown of order as in
its establishment. Contrasting, say, the Trevor Sutton painting Christow with Giulia
Ricci’s Order Disruption Painting could reinforce this view, as might opposing the
serene geometry of the Natalie Dower to the visual excitation of Patrick Morrissey’s
work, or the stability of Sutton with the kinetic, off-
Installation shot, from left to right works by Trevor Sutton and Patrick Morrissey. Image by courtesy of Slate Projects
Without succumbing to the much too linear (non-
Watch this space!
(There is an illustrated catalogue accompanying the exhibition, with excellent essays by Nathan Cohen and Laura Davidson and an introduction by Alex Meurice.)