BACK AND FORTH
8 artists from London
private view: Thursday 16th February, 19.00
B55 Gallery, 1055 – Hungary, Budapest, Balaton u.4
exhibition on view until 17th of March, 2012
JANE BUSTIN / SIMON CALLERY / ROSE DAVEY / LOTHAR GÖTZ / TAMÁS JOVÁNOVICS / KÁROLY KESERÜ / DILLWYN SMITH / ESTELLE THOMPSON
www.b55galeria.hu / firstname.lastname@example.org / +3613541350 /
open: Thu-Fri: 12.00-18.00, Sat 10.00 -13.00, Sun, Mon: closed
Back and Forth – Catalogue essay by Estelle Thompson / Tamás Jovánovics
Back and forth — there is a lot of back and forth in making an exhibition happen. In a group show there are conversations from artist to artist, then from artists to venue and back again. In this instance there is the moving of work and artists from one country to another, and back again. But the ‘real‘ back and forth is in the making of paintings, in the studio, their evolution — the thinking. There is also the relationship of painting to its history and to its future. Traveling back to Malevich’s ‘Black Square’ is much quoted right now yet it might equally mean looking much further back (or sideways even) whilst thinking about how to move on.
Our initial selection of artists for ‘Back and Forth’ relied on what could be called painters’ instinct. Without articulating our criteria, we knew instinctively, as painter/curators that these painters shared a fascination with, and respect for, the formal field (the area defined by the support) of the painting. Regardless of what is painted on it, a painting support is usually a rectangle, square, circle or oval — it is geometric. It is the geometry of this field that each of these artists, no matter what the mode of their articulation, obsessively activate. This ‘thinking’ isn’t as universal amongst painters now as one might imagine and the various forms of dealing with it are pertinent here. Light and colour are also crucial to all of these painters — colour reflecting light or absorbing light — illuminated or mute. And variously all these painters actively configure colour and materiality to evoke space or alternatively to reassert surface in their works.
Estelle Thompson, Jane Bustin and Rose Davey all assume, in their own ways that the painting is dictated by its own archetypical form and proportions. They each adhere to a reductive play whether via a modified use of monochrome or division of the painting field. Thompson’s seemingly simple colour compositions seek to trigger the eye and make the process of looking active. The weight, place, balance and discord of form and colour demand of, rather than placate, the eye. The flat colour is always animated, abraded and reworked so that the surface implies the history of its making. They sit on an edge between harmony and discord.
Davey, in a more architectural way, also paints to the proportions of the ‘field’. Her accentuated use of materials — wooden panels, which often remain visible — contrast the ‘skin’ of the paint employed. Earlier works directly referenced actual architecture, but now the planes of colour, sometimes window like, reference painting language and its architecture. In these paintings colour is employed to ‘hum’ and ‘hover’. They are visually concentrated.
In Bustin’s work, untouched surfaces operate alongside painted elements. The selection and orchestration of this contrasting or harmonising of materials forms the visual
‘hit’ and locks us into the viewing. Whether matte and mute, or super shiny, the way in which these are worked together is key. Bustin adds another dimension through verbal and musical allegations in order to emphasise the metaphysical potential of painting. She seeks to render visual concepts found in language, music, science and theology.
Art historically there also exists a tendency to de-canonise the rectangular field — artists such as Stella, Morellet and Buren de-constructed the rectangularity of painting. Simon Callery and Tamás Jovánovics represent this historical stream of painting in the Expanded Field.
Callery’s aim is to explore painting as both a pictorial and sculptural entity. He literally opens up and folds the surface of the work to form ‘paintings’ (25 continuous meters of canvas are used on a large work). In a parallel set of circular works, which are more like broken spheres that have shifted, it is this ‘slippage’ that deconstructs the painted field. Callery’s works do not transmit a finitude; they offer an emphatically material and temporal character — they are his ‘excavation sites’. Callery’s colour holds the weight of and is symbiotic with his use of form.
Jovánovics also deconstructs as a means to break the painterly field. Jovánovics sections and arranges multiple panels in order to accentuate their illusionistic power. The paintings make a floating visual sign, interacting with both real and virtual space. It is the implied depth of field and at the same time the actual bi-dimensionality of the painting that affects the viewer and locks them in. The eye moves rapidly from surface to space, and back again, caught in an unending visual scan. The result is both meditative and mesmerising. Lothar Götz, Károly Keserü and Dillwyn Smith each employ geometry in more eclectic ways and form the third tendency within this exhibition.
Götz makes paintings and wall paintings. The wall works (often large scale) employ geometric compositions with intense, complex colour distribution. In ‘Back and Forth’ Götz is represented by smaller paintings and drawings that emphasise line and dynamism. It is a nervous energy that propels the eye again, back and forth. In both his paintings and wall installations Götz sees colour as beautiful and a key aspect of life that surrounds us.
Keserü acknowledges revisiting and rethinking various twentieth century modernist ideas in his work. He is also interested in exploring the relationship of abstraction to archetypal decoration. Like Jovánovics he uses repetition but the ‘multiples’ in his works are found in his recurring lines, dots and grids. The order and disorder occurs as similar marks falter and change. Keserü’s making is meticulous (possibly laborious, though this implies without consideration) and every act is considered. Keserü’s dots and grids are for him a quasi-scientific exploration of optics and subatomic structures in painting.
While Keserü might be dealing with visual phenomena ‘on the border of visibility’, Smith seems to push the limits of the visual towards the meta-visual, employing homeopathic-alike transparent essences as pigments in his work. Smith’s canvases consist of fabric strips stitched together with a quasi geometry, loose and lyrical. The use of a ‘screeching’ colour key in one work contrasts the ‘bleached’ nuanced shift of greys and whites in another. Fabric as materiality is key. Sometimes Smith works with transparent fabric (like Bustin) to ‘dematerialise’ and evoke a space behind the picture plane. These are paintings without visible paint, fully employing the language of painting.
Our spoken or written language keeps evolving, adapted in time and use, making us evaluate its form, quantify its meaning and reinvent it. Surely the same applies to our use and evolution of visual language, painting language
— back and forth.
Estelle Thompson / Tamás Jovánovics