Geometry: Wonky & Otherwise @ Déda

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Geometry: Wonky & Otherwise @ Déda

3 September – 7 November
PV 10th September 6.30 – 8pm

Nine artists from across the UK in a lively survey of abstract painting. Featuring work from:

Andrew Bracey, Lucy Cox, Louisa Chambers, Terry Greene, David Manley, Andrew Parkinson, Richard Perry, Marion Piper and Sarah R Key.

curated by Professor David Manley
Déda,
Chapel Street,
Cathedral Quarter,
Derby,
DE1 3GU
01332 370 911

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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

Sarah R Key on colour, paint and painting

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Sarah R Key; colour, paint and painting

“I work with acrylic paints on panel at the moment, and largely over the past decade I’ve focused technical development on my use of specific quality acrylic paints. In the last three years I have also explored working with oils (Lefranc & Borgeois) and Egg Tempera (Sennelier) for particular bodies of work, where I was interested in the subtle and different qualities they offer.

The processes I currently use are best suited to acrylic paint and GAC acrylic polymer mediums. I work quickly on grounds with many layers, employing various methods of application and removal. I am interested in developing rich surfaces where there are definable qualities of difference at play – through sheen and solid plasticity, and through fuzzy areas and flat planes. I get through lots of masking tape and find low tack Scotch or Duck preferable to Frog (a personal preference – I know some artists who swear by Frog, but I find it tends to bleed more if I have even the shallowest striation on the ground). I couldn’t work without my 20cm Cinghiale Brush brought from an Italian hardware store – this type of brush from Italy don’t seem to lose bristles, being of generally high quality. I use a wide range of small, medium and tiny brushes, as well as other less conventional instruments on occasion. Templates are also something I use to develop imagery, tending toward appropriation of existing ones that are not designed for painting at all. I do also have a designers flexi-curve.

I use Golden Fluid Acrylics, which have a very high intensity of pigment and the consistency of un-whipped double cream. I switched from Liquitex because they reduced their Soft Body range a few years ago, discontinuing some of my favorites, like Baltic Blue. I was really despondent when Liquitex did this, but as it happens my palette became more advanced when I started mixing from Golden paints. With Golden Fluids, I always use their Titanium White, Carbon Black and Paynes Gray. The list of colours I buy evolves gently with each order, but with a few favorites: Turquoise (Phthalo), Cobalt Teal, Permanent Green Light, Phthalo Blue (Green and Red shades), Hansa Yellow Medium, Yellow and Red Oxide, Pyrrole Red.

I’ll work on my own palette from a very open base and find that this enables a broad variety to emerge within a set of parameters. I’m quite involved with greys at the moment, alongside a more intensely synthetic colour range. Since discovering Liquitex and Golden, I have never even thought of returning to any other acrylics. As for surface preparation, I only use Gesso (Golden or Roberson’s Acrylic Gesso) – black and white.

I’m working a lot on panel at the moment. I have brought it in on occasion (cradled archival maple panels from a company called Art Boards in Brooklyn, NY) but prefer now to put my own together using a premium birch faced ply and planed soft wood timber. It’s less ‘precious’, more economical and they are more robust to work on. I do also work on canvas (unprimed 10oz cotton duck) and tend to use the Museum 45 stretcher bars (from Pegasus) that are a non-warping design using laminate wood – I’ve found them to be sturdy and reliable for larger work. Without a workshop facility these are a good option, and I cut my teeth making my own at art school, with lap joints and chiseled sections for cross bars, so I don’t feel too bad about short cutting these days!” ~ Sarah R Key

Sarah’s work will be featured in the upcoming ‘Enclosures/Elsewhere’ show at Lion & Lamb and has a solo show at New Court Gallery, later in the year.

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