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

Website: Chestnuts Design

Interview with Morrissey & Hancock by Marco Cali

June 2021. First published in British Contemporary Drawing

©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock  All rights reserved.


June 2021

When we first started to work together we shared a small space in Deptford Creekside, and we each produced our own individual work. But we were both interested in the use of repetition, geometry, and logic, which we applied to installation, painting, assemblage, and film. We would often make suggestions to help each other’s work develop, and this proved very fruitful. From about 2009 this pattern of exchanging ideas became so well established that we began to share sketch books, using a core idea from one of our works, and working it through in our own way. We felt that this increased collaboration was successful, and it led to the creation of work that seemed semi-autonomous, work that neither of us would have arrived at individually. It was the input from the other that made the piece look the way it did. There was so much of this exchange and development that we decided to continue to make work collaboratively; we had created a kind of third voice.

The works are based on mathematical or pictorial sequences which form a key, which is then subjected to a series of rules. When starting a piece of work we always continue to the end (we call this ‘the game’). Even if the outcome looks a little uninteresting to start with, there is always something of interest for us when it’s finished, when the game is played out to the end. Your expression ‘throwing a set of darts into the darkness’ rings very true; we don’t always know how the piece will look, and although certain sequences and treatments will have a predictable effect, changing just one number or part of a pictorial key can have a dramatic effect on the outcome.

We often use data from external sources. One series of drawings used the departure times and platforming at London Waterloo Station, using an orthogonal grid, then mapping the data and subjecting it to a set of rules. There is something transcendent in these works; for example, in the contemplative nature of the structures, or the deliberate repetitions of the TQID and TPIAR series that create waves and curves which appear and disappear as the viewer moves around the work. The Rotational drawings create lines and spaces that can also be quite illusory; although they are completely non-representational they have the appearance of a meandering geometry often found in the natural world.

We completed the grid drawings Switch and Rotational without drawing a solid grid as we did when developing them. We used to mark them out in pencil first, but now we draw directly on to the painted surface with Poska or Rotring pens, which allows for a cleaner surface and uncluttered spaces in the drawings. We have to be very accurate as any error will destroy the pattern / spaces - there are very high levels of concentration required. There is always the risk of a slight over-run of a pen mark, as some of the drawings are made up of thousands of lines - we allow these to remain as they are hand-drawn and it shows the human touch; we do not hold to the ‘finish fetish’ way of thinking.

Our style of work is appreciated more in Europe than the UK. The recent book by James Bartos, The Geometry of Beauty, The Not Very British Art of Six British Artists explores this phenomenon perfectly. In 2011 we curated an exhibition of work with artists who we felt had core interests similar to our own, this was ‘Saturation Point, an International Survey of Reductive Art’ featuring sixteen artists from around the world. Having instigated a showing of reductive and systems work in the UK, we developed a curatorial / editorial online platform with the same name. Our intention with this project is to showcase work that demonstrates the vitality of systems, reductive and minimalist work in its authentic form.

The show at Platform A in summer 2019 marked a shift in focus towards the drawn line in our practice. It was called ‘8 Lines’, with eight artists, eight lines of enquiry, all using the drawn line or implied line as the shared experience for the installation. Since then we have developed and maintained linear attributes in much of the work we have produced. Perhaps the most diverse so far, in terms of contemporary media, was Red Stripe Blue, a directed collaboration with a former scientist in which a static study was photographed, and by using coding and programming we produced an abstracted, immersive light piece.

We are still based in Deptford and have a larger studio now where we invite artists to show work at Sunday Salon events. At these events our working space becomes an impromptu gallery, showing artists from the UK and Europe whose work relates to the interests we have at Saturation Point. The artists lend us their work for up to two weeks, and we lend them our space. Using the space as a gallery has now become part of our studio practice; so far we have had ten such events. They are invitation-only, as the space is also our working studio. However, this gives artists a chance to show work or experiment with ideas, and to meet like-minded artists. The events are featured on the Saturation Point website.

We hope to continue to build on the Saturation Point foundations to create a platform for systems-based work in the UK.