Fifteen Stations of the Cross by fifteen contemporary painters.

THE BRENTWOOD STATIONS OF THE CROSS

David Ainley, Freya Purdue, Linda Ingham, Gideon Pain, Andrew Crane, Matthew Krishanu, Pen Dalton, Susie Hamilton, David Sullivan, Ruth Philo, Robert Priseman, Marguerite Horner, Susan Gunn, Alex Hanna, Simon Carter

Project devised by Fr. Martin Boland Dean of Brentwood Cathedral curated by Simon Carter

Fifteen Stations of the Cross by fifteen contemporary painters. Brentwood Cathedral, Ash Wednesday to Good Friday 2015
 

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Contemporary British Abstraction @ The SE9 Container Gallery

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Public Viewing
11am to 3pm Saturdays
28 February – 11th April 2015

Private View
5th March 5.30pm to 8.30pm

Contemporary British Abstraction is a group show including thirty-five artists selected by artists Matthew Macaulay and Terry Greene.

Artists include:
David Ainley, Ralph Anderson, Chris Baker, Dominic Beattie, Andrew Bick, Katrina Blannin, Claudia Boese, Julian Brown, EC, Ben Cove, Clem Crosby, Pen Dalton, Lisa Denyer, Andrew Graves, Terry Greene, Susan Gunn, Alexis Harding, Sue Kennington, Sarah R Key, Phoebe Mitchell, Matthew Macaulay, Ellie MacGarry, Katrin Mäurich, Sarah McNulty, Mali Morris, Andrew Parkinson, Aimee Parrott, Marion Piper, Clare Price, Geoffrey Rigden, Gwennan Thomas, Trevor Sutton, David Webb, Mary Webb, Gary Wragg,

Why Abstraction Now?

Abstraction is no longer new. Abstract painters today are not doing what Malevich did a hundred years ago, things have changed, nor is theirs a stunned response to two world wars, so how is it that, when everything in abstraction has already been done, painters today continue in this tradition? Why abstraction now? The 35 artists in this exhibition might each offer a different answer, or their answers might naturally fall into numerous categories, at times overlapping and at other times contradicting each other.

For some, abstraction continues to be compelling simply because of its content-free status, in the same sense that mathematics or arithmetic is devoid of content. We don’t need apples, pears or other objects in order to add, subtract, multiply and divide. These operations are best carried out abstractly, just as in formal semantics or formal logic, removal of content allows concentration on structure and relata. Maths and logic aren’t new anymore, but people continue to contribute to them. Furthermore, these disciplines, like abstract art, are in a sense removed from our everyday lives yet at the same time intrinsic to them.

At the opposite extreme, some artists here will argue that the terms abstract and representational are misleading or irrelevant and will claim not to see themselves as abstract painters at all. Any representational painting is always also an abstraction and, non-representation seems impossible, so perhaps the distinction falls away.

For others, form is process that has halted or become ‘frozen’, so their key focus is the process of painting which itself becomes content or, alternatively, it is discovered as part of the process. There is often an element of ‘primitivism’ in this approach, as Craig Staff highlighted in his book Modernist Painting and Materiality, the paint is paint in the same way that in the writings of D H Lawrence flesh is flesh. Could it also be, that the static materiality of the painting offers a kind of antidote to the digital, screen-based experience that has come to characterise the technological? Painting here is a bit like jazz in that meaning or structure is the result of improvisation. Jazz may no longer be in vogue, but lots of good Jazz music continues to be made, and music that rightly deserves the tag contemporary.
Other abstract artists prefer to emphasise not so much the painters’ heroic quest for content as the part that the viewer plays in “reading in” their own meanings, or allowing associations to come to mind, perhaps specifically anticipated by the artist and perhaps not. Meaning is both invented and fluid, that’s our everyday lived experience, yet we hardly pay attention to it, as if meaning is readily supplied. Abstract art challenges us to engage in multiple acts of interpretation, and better still, at least potentially, to become aware of those interpretive actions.

Some artists working in this field, employ a methodology that, far from improvisation, is pre-planned, programmed, determined, by a preordained system or sequence. The results of such an approach cannot not relate to the determined-ness of contemporary experience. Without in any way attempting to depict or illustrate life within a technological system, their art is entirely congruent with such a life. Furthermore, that some element of free play is introduced may act as a metaphor exploring the extent to which such play within our everyday systems is possible, or not.
Many years ago Jacques Ellul, author of The Technological Society, argued that contemporary art is either an imitation of, or a compensation for, technology, seeing abstraction’s loss of the subject and its focus on means as technological phenomena. Much more recently, David Trotter coined the term techno-primitivism for a technologically-mediated primitivism, or that which “draws back from the technological only in order to get a better grasp upon it”. The two positions “drawing back from” and “getting a better grasp of” are contradictory or opposing poles, yet here they are held together. It’s the continuum that unites them and allows for overlap. Borrowing Ellul’s language it may be possible to both “imitate” and “compensate” for technology at the same time.

If there are perhaps as many answers to the question “why abstraction today?” as there are abstract artists, and their viewpoints may well be contradictory, in this exhibition we seek to hold some of these contradictions together in an attempt to get a better view. And this is a question better answered by viewing than by speculating, so we invite you to take a look at the multiple “answers” on view.

Text kindly written for the show by Andy Parkinson

The Exhibition Location

The SE9 Container Gallery
St Thomas More Catholic School
Footscray Road,
Eltham

David Ainley

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Portobello (Veins) 2010-11, by David Ainley

“My paintings and drawings are the product of lengthy and complex processes. The form of a cross in the Landscape Issues series is cut from the support on which the painting is to be made and, in the Veins series the lines depicting the mineral deposits are sawn right through the panel. Following this a succession of layers of monochrome are painted, between each of which hundreds of horizontal lines are cut through to what lies beneath. At each stage the surfaces are scraped down and re-painted. Paradoxically though there is a considerable thickness of paint (perhaps thirty layers) the surfaces of the paintings appear relatively flat. This approach to painting, in which the process is an aspect of the content, involves order, chance, surprise, creation and destruction. Often something visually appealing is completely overpainted as a prelude to making further discoveries in the work. Many colours underlie what eventually has, at first sight, some characteristics of a minimalist monochrome. These are not, however, minimalist paintings, but the outcome of something akin to the concerns of the American poet, Lorine Niedecker, who spoke of her work as ‘condensery’. When much that is communicated nowadays has the longevity of a sound-bite, when ‘heritage’ risks over-commercialisation and excessive interpretation, and when painting and drawing are often seen as less appropriate media than moving, digital, imagery, I have a commitment to making still, quiet, images which, like the landscapes to which they relate, have the potential to educe responses and reveal their content over time.” ~ David Ainley Exhibition Handout, September 2007