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Meeting Points   | Sharon Hall

Benjamin Rhodes Arts, London, 16 May to 29 June 2024

A review by Laurence Noga

©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock  All rights reserved.

In Sharon Hall’s absorbing exhibition ‘Meeting Points’ at Benjamin Rhodes’ gallery, a deep understanding of colour permeates the work. We feel drawn into the possible locations, or passages of time, which the conception of the show alludes to. But alongside this aesthetic there is a coalescence that exists between the works, building an odd luminescence that creates a slightly unsettling atmosphere in the space. 

Hall’s complex arrangements of angles and spatial relationships construct an approach to tone, texture, and permeability which emphasises the surface facture, which varies according to the support they are painted on, or where they are painted. The different sections of the show cleverly solves this formal problem for the audience. But Hall is unafraid of questioning the hard-edged nature of her work, bringing expressive moments to her precise forms, and a fluid mutability to the exhibition.

Asymmetrical (I & II) diptych,  2020, 100 x 120 cm overall, oil on linen

Each of these paintings operates in a multitude of ways. In Asymmetrical I & II the sharply-divided panels have one colour (lime green) carried over. But here Hall takes it through a gentle metamorphosis, changing its nature as it crosses, letting light into the painting by wiping or glazing. The brushy sections function differently enough to activate the flatter applications of fresco-like colour in the left-hand panel. The adjacent composition, with its cadmium green triangle is activated by its flickering sense of focus, optically pointing the viewer in different directions depending on their angle of view. 

Mura,  2023 30 x 40 cm (irreg.), oil on gesso on linen, Maze,  2023 30 x 40 cm (irreg.), oil on linen

The placement of each work is critical in this sensitive curation. Corners are staged through containment. Mura’s trapezoid shape and linen support focuses our gaze on the stretched horizontal bands, letting them bleed a little, perhaps indicating a crumbling fresco or the stain of henna. Hall’s recent trip to India feels interwoven here. The space separating Mura / Maze allows a feeling of displacement, taking us around the space, then conversely pointing us back anti-clockwise. 

Turning, 2024, 62 x 46 cm, oil on linen on panel

Turning seems a little different to the rest of the work in the show. Compositionally, the designated areas of colour (split with a black zip between top and bottom) create a haunted quality. The transparency of the light pink violet and the more opaque light red feels important in terms of the surface, like dust in the air. Drawing us into the near and not-so-near distance, Hall conjures a spectacular sense of place or ritual, evoking thoughts of early morning in Varanasi or the banks of the Ganges. 

Contrappunto (for DS), 2018, 100 x 80 cm, oil on linen

Contrappunto operates much faster, using triangular focal points to create balance or imbalance, depending on how Hall allows the elements to meet.  The glazing of the surface, using different tones of grey, brings a punchy quality of place and non-place, and calls to mind the suprematist compositions of Nina Kogan with their speed and musicality.

Pleat, 2024, 30 x 30 cm, oil on cotton duck

Rather like a kind of envelope that conveys the history of how things are received or opened, the crisp, hard-edged composition in Pleat captures my attention. Its simplicity of composition, together with its maximum impact, works brilliantly. Packed away like a folded table, the chromium oxide green sits in behind the eye-popping light red triangle. Hall completes the painting with a white frame that hovers mesmerically above.

Turning a corner within the space we are confronted with another stunning diptych: Pinks, Whites and Orange. This hard-edged composition offers several ways to enter the system contained within its gradually increasing expansion. We notice a hidden trapezoid constructed from the magenta and off-white forms, then suddenly find another – nestled inside and balancing the other panel. This painting deals brilliantly well with the emotions of the audience, developing an autobiographical mirror. Hall’s love of travel and movement is infectious and inspiring.

Hall divides her studio time between London and Italy, and this duality is at the core of these paintings. But more radically, the extraordinary pitch that has grown out of her time in Varanesi has brought a fragility to her paintings’ structure. Perhaps letting in more air, and bringing a kind of poignancy to the temperature of her paintings’ transient and mobile relationships.

All photographs courtesy of Justin Piperger.