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

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New Wave by Laurence Noga

Austin Desmond Fine Art:  A Fine Line: Concrete, Constructivist and Minimalist Art

On entering the Austin Desmond Gallery it was immediately clear that every work descended from a complex set of decisions. Discrete or hard-edged juxtaposition, momentary and yet continual retinal movement, the atmosphere of concrete, minimalist, and constructivist rules and methodologies are interwoven with the sense of how time works on material objects.

Austrian painter Gerwald Rockenschaub has cleverly sharpened the composition in his painting, Untitled, 50 x 50 cm 1986 down to a moment a ‘new wave’ which actually reflects out into the gallery, both through its high gloss surface and the notion of a new beginning of unidentified air and space.

The work of Peter Lowe, Grey Relief (53 x 53 x 10 cm, 1982) in painted beech has an inner confidence. A member of the systems group, Lowe’s instincts around expanded construction are partly intuitive in their spirit. The geometric relief has a playful transformable feeling as the negative spaces interplay with the shadows.

I think that Lowe has got it right in his approach; the exhibition reveals logical systems both conceptual and plastic, but perhaps, as Lowe says: “You can work intuitively with the system. I think what scares people is that they think it rules out intuition”.

Laurence Noga

September 2014

Natalie Dower, Dudeney Encoded, 1987 Oil on canvas 45.5 x 45.5 cm

I liked the curation, particularly of the diamond works each in its own space, elevating visual presence and making us aware of individual and group philosophy. Mary Martin reflects this in her ‘Transparent group forms blue’ as her natural sense of construction, luminosity and transparency are combined with mathematical principles including working with the golden section and the Fibonacci sequence.

The neon-toned yellow-green / lime-green edges at the base of Counter Rhythms and Levels (89 x 89 cm, 1982) by Gillian Wise seems to be a catalyst for the whole show because of its expressive and hidden quality. Her relationship with the American constructionists impacts upon her approach, both in her sense of ‘colour coating’ as in the work of Charles Biederman, and her confidence with the twenty stainless steel panels which shift forward and drop back in an organized and coherent relational interaction. The shallow sense of physical depth behind the steel panels and the shadows from the passers-by (which are even more insistent at night) induce a phenomenologically-charged experience. The sprayed cerulean and ultramarine edges force themselves into the situation.

The work of Swiss artist Max Bill has architectural potency. Auflosung Von Lila, painted in 1972, (47 X 47 cm) is made in a diamond format, turning a square canvas 45 degrees so it hangs diagonally with a point at top and bottom. The luminous specificity of the light violet-grey, evenly painted square, at its centre allows it to hover, buzzing, as it interacts with the phalo turquoise triangles at its points, which are softly applied with a palette knife, building a synthesis of logic. Bill stated that “the aim of concrete art is to create a visible and tangible form of things which did not previously exist – to represent abstract thoughts in a sensuous and tangible form”. There is a ‘touch’ and authority that comes out of his preliminary drawings, which were often carried out on graph paper.

Tess Jaray, (British, B.1937)  Thorns 3/Thorns 7, 2014 Cut panel  21 x 43 cm (each panel) 21 x 86 cm (overall size)

Gillian Wise, Counter Rhythms & Levels, 1982  Stainless steel and cellulose car paint on wood relief

Peter Lowe (British, B. 1938) Grey Relief, 1982  Painted beech  54 x 53 x 10 cm

Gerwald Rockenschaub (Austrian, B.1952) Untitled, 1986

Oil on canvas  50 x 50 cm

Max Bill, Auflösung von Lila, 1972 Oil on canvas, 47 x 47 cm

Arturo Bonfanti’s oil on canvas ‘MI.231’, made in 1971, uses an illusory tonal shift of two grey tones that alter perception of the upper dark space; this touches at its point the other black space allowing the viewer simultaneously to see into, and feel, the form wrap across the green /ochre surface. The 15 x 18 cm painting contained in its frame is one of the most powerful works in the show and it has a technical dexterity that draws us into the optical effect.  

Transition, a screen print by John Carter (2013; 30 x 16.5 cm) also comes from a sensitivity through drawing again on graph paper. It has echoes of his fabricated plywood coated reliefs made in acrylic paint and marble powder in the 80s. The flatness, yet high-key colour tension works partly because of his ability with warm colours, but also a physical spatial tension from the angle of the white form on the grey ground that allows the slightly larger deep cadmium red square to float sculpturally in the space, in counterpoint to the carbon black beneath.

Arturo Bonfanti, MI.231, 1971 Oil on canvas  15 x 18 cm

Natalie Dower uses geometric constraint and order, with a depth of systematic ideas. The surface looks fresh in the 1987 painting Dudeney Encoded (45.5. x 45.5) cm. Her compositional rigour keeps us guessing as to the nature of the code that we need to break. The lustre of the oil paint still has plenty to say about how depth can be achieved with an economy of means and mathematical laws.

The physical tension in the work of Tess Jaray is mesmerizing in its execution and intensity of colour. As it holds the space it sucks you in between the works, and then into the pattern of thorns, which sit blinking at you in electric red beneath the ochre/green surface, and this experience is reversed in its companion to rack up the chromatic oppositions.

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