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Marc Vaux  |  The Edge and Beyond at Bernard Jacobson gallery

17 November to 21 December 2017

Review by Tim Barnes

A simple visual experience cannot be explained away lightly. Minimalist art forms take us nearest to the fabric of creation and as they are so removed from complex imagery they can assume unlimited modes of being. Perhaps Marc Vaux is asking us not to look for theories or obscure formulas in his work, instead, what he is giving us is pure delight.

The Edge and Beyond, Installation photograph © Bernard Jacobson Gallery

The Edge and Beyond is a collection of wall constructions, standing sculpture and related works on paper spanning four decades, right up to the present day. It is a selection of individual, experimental pieces that when brought together share a common vocabulary. Each one galvanises the cause of the next and is interlinked by a thread of unwavering but unspoken visual logic, allowing Vaux’s creative trajectory to unfold. Bernard Jacobson Gallery is presenting this exhibition to celebrate the artist’s 85th birthday this November.

SQ 15, 1988, Cellulose and acrylic on aluminum and wood, 75 x 72 x 10cm © Bernard Jacobson Gallery

SQ15 is a wall relief. Like many of these pieces, colour is confined and marginalised to narrow bands in the composition. It seems to reduce the artwork almost to the state of a notation outlining its component parts. However, the white or blank surfaces become active expanses, theatres of light and shadow, their changing tones continually blending these works into a more dynamic being. Intriguingly, shadows cast from the sculpture’s own angular structure appear to be of equal dimensions to some of the physical elements in the overall composition. It is as though Marc Vaux is able to draw with shadow.  

Marc Vaux, Light Cube (Pink), 2006, Acrylic, 21.5 x 21.5 x 21.6cm © Bernard Jacobson Gallery

Light Cube (pink) glows from the inside. It holds vibrant reflected light within itself as though light were a substantial material, contributing to the object’s solidity and structure. Colour, light and form are all separate components, now coming together to make a harmonious and dynamic whole.

These calculated sculptural constructs have a profound physical presence but this only allows the absence of meaning to body forth with more gusto. As much as our perception might work to encounter them, Vaux’s assemblages work just as hard to escape it. They tease something more fluid that evades their permanent structure and touches something with an infinite potential.

E3/1, 2002, Anodised aluminium and acrylic on MDF, 121.92 x 121.92 x 9.5cm © Bernard Jacobson Gallery

Vaux exploits light’s reflective quality by positioning thin strips of coloured MDF around the inner or outer edges of his reliefs. In E3/1, these bands produce coloured shadows on the surrounding white surfaces, now activated and energised with a luminous presence. Perhaps these works are dynamic mixing palettes, each one a playground of reflected colour and light, vibrating with a performative exuberance.

With a mastery over the dynamics of emptiness, Vaux is carrying the fire after Mondrian. That controlled emptiness opens these works up. It invites an unbounded spectrum of tone and colour into the composition, occurring in various combinations. In a way, these artworks are empty vessels for a much larger force to enter in. Or perhaps instruments of a more distant and unreachable sphere, one that we rarely see manipulated so eloquently.

Through his sensitive organisation of material things, Vaux shows us the various effects of colour as it stirs and vibrates at the speed of light. Colour is the ever-changing complexity at the heart of his reliefs, which are themselves reduced only to what is necessary. Vaux, in appreciating the quiet voice of the natural phenomena working around him, shows us something immaterial.

The Edge and Beyond, Installation photograph © Bernard Jacobson Gallery