The Discipline Of Painting is the first of two consecutive exhibitions in this year’s programme looking at abstraction. Each show will consist of a selection of some half dozen artists drawn from across generations showing a selection of pictures coupled with a small number of individual works to act as a ‘control’ group. In each ‘control group’ I am showing a work of mine. The Discipline Of Painting is focussed on a broad idea of formalist concerns in making a painting and as its title suggests they exhibit a certain rigour and control. By contrast Painting Too (3rd – 24th November) will bring together work that shows looser handling, greater expressionism and use of other means (especially collage) coming into play albeit still within the sphere of broad based abstraction.
In this first show the ‘control group’ of works comprises Yellowgate a canvas of mine from 1973 that was made as part of the body of work that made up my degree show, a work by Sean Scully that comes from his first retrospective in 1980 which marked the fulcrum between his early formalist grids and his mature work of the past four decades and another work on paper by David Tremlett that is a preparatory study for one of his wall drawings (paintings?) from earlier this year. These three works mark part of the second half of the passage of time from the early twentieth century until today and in some way underline the abiding interest in the formal characteristics of abstraction that the artists in the exhibition as a whole evidence.
The list of exhibitors in the exhibition proper are:
I have known David for nearly twenty years now. He taught at the Derbyshire College of HE some years back but has for some years now been a visiting lecturer at many UK art schools and as part of those engagements has given lectures and seminars on materials practice (for a time working for one of the leadings materials manufacturers. David is very much a painters painter and his practice involves a great deal of complex procedure that is allied to his ongoing fascination with mining – he lives in rural Derbyshire in a rich mining environment. The rigour and discipline in his work is offset by the metaphorical striking of hidden seams in the way in which strata of paint is revealed. His pictures repay very careful examination and repeated visits.
I came to Katrina’s work through the writings of Andy Parkinson and then through the curation of Dan Roach. Now I realise that she is very highly regarded and influential within the circles that matter in abstraction now. Her work has an elegance and intensity that demonstrates beyond doubt that formalist concerns in art are alive and well and, perhaps more importantly capable of fresh and inventive readings as it moves into its second century.
I was especially delighted when Luke Frost agreed to be a part of this show. His pellucid, indeed glorious, paintings illustrate the way in which the intense study of colour can be applied to form with results that are breathtaking. Luke bucks the vagaries of time and place…he works in West Cornwall as if to make a point of saying that it can still be at the cutting edge of painting now as it was when his grandfather was a key part of the St. Ives school…and he (quite bravely one imagines) choose to take on that cultural legacy…a decision that has benefitted all of us with an interest in what form and colour can say to us afresh today.
Lauri is a graduate of Chichester Art School where I was her External Examiner. She marked out some interesting territory in her second year with some strong, though quite conventional, hard edged paintings. For her final project though she hit upon the idea of using cloth book covers as a means of making formal blocks of colour and form. These works that she has explored further since starting her professional career have attracted a good deal of favourable comment, not surprisingly as they are thoughtful, elegant and artfully constructed. For me they take a direction that suggests this kind of formalism is still capable of surprising, and delighting, us.
Andy is a prolific and astute commentator on abstraction in painting – his blog is one of the best places to go for excellent writing on UK abstraction at the current time. His own work exhibits the same kind of spirit of enquiry and intensity in what abstraction means now and in recent years he has had a little more time to devote to the practice that goes from strength to strength. In particular he brings in ideas and theories from other disciplines in which he is engaged (especially systems analysis) that find their way into his pictures in the most inventive and original manner.
I came to know Dan through my wife who taught him on his degree course at the University of Worcester and some time after graduation Dan mounted a show at Harrington Mill whilst embarking on a Masters degree at Gloucestershire University. In recent months he has gained attention more widely for this mature work that makes use of a hexagonal motif in pictures that have a jewel like character with subtle layering and surface modulation. He was selected for the Abstract Critical newcomers award in 2012 and was a finalist in this year’s Marmite prize with these intelligent and – dare one say – beautiful? – paintings.
One of the UK’s leading painters for many years now it is criminal that Trevor Sutton is not lauded internationally at the level he deserves. Nonetheless amongst the art community and especially all those interested in non figurative work Trevor is recognised as working at the consistently highest level exploring ways in which formalist abstraction can be reinvented and reinvigorated. I have followed his work with interest and admiration over many years (he graduated from the Birmingham School of Art Masters course two years ahead of me) and as an intern at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham in the late 70’s I proposed a show of six Birmingham trained painters of which Trevor’s name topped the list…his name still tops the list (any list) of this broad painting genre today.