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Laurence Noga:  Open Systems

C & C Gallery, London.  13 Jan – 2 April 2018

Review by Tony Blackmore, February 2018

Deep Yellow Filtered Pink, 2017 acrylic, collage, Perspex on wood, 14 x 25 cm

Laurence Noga’s Open Systems is a body of wall-based collages made on structural supports of canvas, MDF and composite wood.  With strong geometric forms, each piece is a combination of coloured Perspex, found elements and magazine cuttings that have been partially covered with tonal or flat areas of painted colour. Numbering seven pieces in total, each work is broadly horizontal in composition, with several vertically extending their geometry with the addition of triangular elements. This causes the viewer to look vertically, horizontally and diagonally. There is also a variation in scale between the works - and within the works - choreographing the viewer towards and away from each.  Adding to this, the viewer is pulled back and forth in time, as slightly faded magazine cuttings sit next to, or are partially covered by, areas of paint that have the appearance of being freshly applied.

In Soft Brown Filtered Black two pieces of composite wood sit side by side, creating a main horizontal band. Straight-edged magazine cuttings containing flat colours and straight edges, reminiscent of interior spaces, are interspersed with painted surfaces. Two painted circular disks, one added to the painted surface and the other painted as part of the same surface, sit uncomfortably within the composition.  These elements, together with a metal handle screwed to the wall slightly above the strip, and a prominent black right-angled triangle attached to the horizontal band itself, give an impression that the work has been returned to, time and time again, in its construction.  The combination of the structural elements and the painted and collaged greys, blues and browns juxtaposes muted-coloured memories with their physical construction.

Soft Brown Filtered Black, 2017, acrylic, collage, wood, steel, 87 x 60cm

The size of your average transistor radio, and with a T-square composition similar to Soft Brown Filtered Black, is Deep Red, Filtered Pink.  Contained within its detailed composition appear to be graphic symbols depicting a record turntable. With retro-looking typefaces from the 1970s or 80s of the text: ‘45 RPM’ and ‘phonogram’, a collaged circle the size of a compact disc is also included.  Again, the composition includes what was once a metal handle, which has been screwed to the wall, and although rendered useless, anchors the work to the present to give a sense of the elapsing of time.

Deep Red Filtered Pink, 2017, acrylic, collage, wood, steel, 82 x 30 cm)

The two smallest works, Deep Yellow Filtered Pink and Deep Blue Filtered Silver, are the more intimate pieces on show, both for their size and their detail.  The solidity and thickness of their composite wood support is sometimes revealed, and gives a heightened sense of materiality. Together, the details of re-worked collaged magazine cuttings and the painted areas combine to pull in the viewer. The geometric forms contained within the plane appear to be of in-between interior spaces and boundaries, such as corridors and staircases, with each form interrupting or overlaying the next.  These re-worked surfaces become an open system of memories, recalled and worked out as if the process has a cathartic value for the artist.  Although these two smaller works have the feel of an open-ended construction process, their compositions feel resolved and complete.  

Deep Blue Filtered Silver, 2017, acrylic and collage on wood, 13 x 25 cm

The previous work’s resolution is in direct contrast to one of the two largest works on show, Double Black Filtered Red, which has the appearance of a work in progress.

Double Black Filtered Red is constructed from two adjacent canvases with an unfixed red Perspex triangle that sits atop the left-hand side.  The triangle’s seemingly casual placement gives the impression that the decision for its placement was taken on the day of the exhibition hang. And its composition of confident bands and black shapes, echoing the triangular vertical extension of Soft Orange Filtered Black on the adjacent wall, appear so freshly painted that the paint might have been applied only yesterday.  Without the revisiting of Noga’s personal history, and with its combination of brash colours including hot pink and lemon yellow, Double Black Filtered Red appears to belong to the present, and with its open-ended composition, extends that presence into the future.

Double Black Filtered Red, 2017, acrylic and Perspex on canvas, 80 x 106 cm

Composed of two canvases, Soft Red Filtered Grey is the longest work on show. On its left hand side, grey-tone colours dominate, with the exception of a luminous orange band that demarcates the canvas from the blue-toned grey edge of the right-hand canvas. This right-hand canvas is an altogether different affair; balanced in composition, the colours brighten and ascend to complementary with a pair of strong vertical red bands enclosed by green.

Soft Red Filtered Grey, 2017, acrylic and collage on canvas, 40 x 200 cm

The pivotal point of Soft Red Filtered Grey is the presence of a small brown leather ring attached to the surface of the left hand side. Perhaps belonging to a piece of furniture, its previous function is ambiguous; it appears to be an object held in safe-keeping in case, one day, it becomes known where it belongs.  With the collaged surface of the canvas painted over, the ring and its historical ambiguities serve as the only personal reference or signifier of the artist’s past.  Although this space for personal reflection sits comfortably within the grey-tones of the left hand canvas, Noga sets up a psychological tension between this space and the right hand canvas, with its overpowering colour fields of abstract geometries.

The titling of each work in Open Systems, referring to one colour filtered by another, indicates an object or experience changed or remembered as something else. It alludes to the artist’s, and our, perception becoming coloured by personal filters or collective memory.  With no one rule dictating the connection between the colours in the artworks and their titles, their titling also appears to be an open system; a system with an added consequence that with titles so similar, and quite easily confused, Noga is perhaps making our memory an extension of the show.