Abstract Critical

Gillian Ayres: Paintings from the 50s

Written by Robin Greenwood

Jerwood Gallery, Hastings
Until 25th Nov. 2012

Unstill Centre, 1959. Courtesy the artist and Alan Cristea Gallery.

In an article written in 1957 and recently re-published by Artnews, Irving Sandler discusses the early abstract paintings of Joan Mitchell and the relationship between her ‘muse’ for the work, provided by landscape or event, and its synthesis as a non-representational image. In particular, he suggests how “…a recollected landscape provides the initial impulse… transformed in the artist’s imagination by feelings inspired by…” very specific places and/or incidents in those places. He continues: “Those feelings which she strives to express she defines as ‘the qualities which differentiate a line of poetry from a line of prose’. However, emotion must have an outside reference [my italics], and nature furnishes the external substance of her work.”

The relationship between subject matter and abstract art continues to confound. Are we discussing a process of abstracting, from figurative subject to abstract object? Or is real abstract art only a process in and of the material? Is all art, including abstract art, necessarily and unavoidably a metaphor; and perhaps most critically of all, is “emotion must have an outside referencea true statement for abstract art; can we not just emote about ‘stuff’? And do we, in any case, want this sort of emotional entanglement whilst we are looking?

I have just recently been to see the wonderful and first rate show of early paintings by Gillian Ayres (from the late fifties, the exact same period Sandler was writing about Mitchell) at the Jerwood Gallery, Hastings. Writing in the exhibition catalogue, the Director of the Jerwood Foundation, Lara Wardle, seems to me to rather hedge her bets:

“Ayres technique of working straight onto the board…without pre-planning gives her work a directness, which is communicated to the viewer through the paint surface. The splashes and drips can be followed across the surface and the history of the painting’s creation can be uncovered by the deciphering of the layers applied. In this way the paintings encourage the viewer to contemplate the event of their creation; the enjoyment that Ayres had in working on them becomes an enjoyment that the viewer can share in looking at the works and following this process.”

OK, so far so good, as far as abstract painting as process goes, though I don’t personally want to interrogate the surface of a painting in quite this way, at least not any more than is necessary to get at the painterly intent of it.  I’m also not sure that we can really have any knowledge of whether Ayres enjoyed making these works at the time, or that we can knowingly share in that experience, even if it were so. Is this yet another fallacy of the emotive content of abstract art, this vicariously felt experience of the act of making?

Wardle continues:

“The paintings are pure abstract works, which do not require interpretation; instead the areas of bold colour and history of mark-making become the subject of the works.”

Well, that’s pretty unequivocal; process has become subject, a familiar and tired post-modern idea. But hang on; Wardle carries on without break:

“Although Ayres has used ‘Untitled’ to caption some of the works, many others from this period have a title which suggests a subject, place or in some cases a sense of movement, for example: Cumuli, 1959; Unstill Centre, 1959; and Muster, 1960.

Cwm Bran, 1959, and Cwm, 1959, refer to a town in Wales and Ayres… visited Wales on a number of occasions to walk and climb the wild, mountainous landscape. Mel Gooding, in his comprehensive monograph on Ayres, notes that they climbed the mountain, Cader Idris at least seventeen times and he writes, ‘Climbing to the top of Cader Idris it is exhilarating to pass through smoky clouds, mist-blinded, to emerge then into bright sunlight and the rediscovery of colour and look up to see the high cumulus rising into clear blue skies, piling billow upon billow, and down to see the lower mists now disguising ridge and gully, erasing the view of Llyn-y-Cau.’ This translation of an experience of landscape into a painting relates Ayres’s work to artists, such as Turner, Constable and James Ward whose paintings she has admired on visits to the National Gallery and Tate.”

Cwm, 1959. Courtesy of the artist and Alan Cristea Gallery.

No, no, no. Maybe I have a shortfall in the imagination department, though I suspect not, but I spent three hours with these works and not once was a billowing cloud or towering Welsh mountain evoked for me. I didn’t think of any such thing for even a moment; until, that is, I later came to read the catalogue. Ayres, I’m convinced, in these early paintings, is not creating metaphors or signs; only (I say only!) creating relational entities in a marvellous and comprehensive variety of invention. To see the elements of these works as anything else; to read them as existing as separate translatable items in a catalogue of metaphoric prompts; to see singular parts in literal isolation as being apart from the relational conversation to which they contribute; is to diminish their considerable power as real, abstract, spatial participants in real, abstract, spatial paintings. The remarkable thing about this set of works is how well they avoid both metaphor and depiction, positioning themselves almost perfectly in the realm of the genuinely abstract.

Would our appreciation and comprehension of these paintings in any way be advanced by the evocation of landscape, or Mel Gooding’s ‘billow upon billow’? My resolute view is that if we should immediately see clouds and mists and mountain-tops and valleys etc. when we look at these paintings, we would be immensely misled. But then too, the alternative interpretation of Wardle is just as inappropriate; we would be equally misled to consider this work as being focussed upon process, showcasing the materials and the activities of the act of painting; for indeed, this is just another kind of illegitimate metaphor.

Far from concentrating upon their own materiality, I very much like the fact that these works are really quite modest and meagre in their use of paint, judicious in the means of manufacture, and refreshingly sparing in their use of colour. The varied thinness of the paint is one very keen factor in their spaciousness; it is undoubtedly this quality of spaciousness which is the key attribute of these works. It is a spaciousness which at its best is not born of depiction or descriptiveness, but of an intentional and progressive abstract-ness. What makes this not only a very good show, but also a very interesting show, is the fact that you can follow the nurturing of this quality, and the subtle but distinct shift of Ayres accomplishments as a painter which over a two or three year period brings it about; from the Hampstead Mural of 1957 through to perhaps the best two works in the show, untitled and Muster, both of 1960.

And it is not that I would particularly want to disparage the earlier work here; the ‘Hampstead Mural’ is not perhaps her finest Tachiste painting from the fifties, but it really is still very good (for absolute confirmation, compare it with the dreadful  Katie Pratt from the Jerwood permanent collection intruding into the show from the next room). But it perhaps suffers just a little from the commonplace, in as far as it is hard not to read the large dark areas of blue, black and purple in the larger panels as figurative ‘voids’, in front of which hover, rather too insistently and optically, the white and coloured blobs, splurges and whorls of a slightly overstressed ‘foreground’. The white in particular seems to jump about a little too ambiguously. I’m probably saying here that they are too tonal, yet I’m conscious of the fact that the highest colour in the whole show is in these works. No doubt some painter can straighten me out on this point.

(I am reminded that extremes of this rather dubious spatial descriptiveness in abstract painting exist in the late work of, for example, John Hoyland and Jules Olitski, both of whom at the end of their careers turned from making good, if limited, abstract paintings, to making rather awful pictures resembling planets, galaxies, nebulas and such like – attempting the spaces of ‘the abstract sublime’ by way of Star Trek. Dennis Bowen was another prime example of this tendency. Ayres avoids these fancies altogether.)

Cumuli, 1959. Courtesy of the artist and Alan Cristea Gallery.

The biggest painting in the show, the double vertical panel of ‘Cumuli’, 1959, shares just a touch of the Hampstead Mural’s overwrought spatial deliberations; its vertical lift, for example, is for me a little too insistent. In the rest of the show the elements of the paintings start to sit into the spaces they create much more easily and naturally (and no, I don’t mean they were easier to paint). In ‘Cwm’ and ‘Cwm Bran’ the colour/paint is so integrated into the spaces of the work that one is hardly aware of it; variety is everywhere, nothing repeats, somehow a complex unity is wrought out of a great diversity. ‘Untitled’ and ‘Muster’, take this even further, with areas of wonderfully modulated and varied spatial blacks and dark greens being used as far more than open backgrounds against which other elements disport; they are fully active participants themselves within the spatial structure as a whole. One of the things that struck me looking at these paintings is how little they make one aware of a picture plane; how very unflat they are; how very un-graphic in every sense; and yet, how true to the integrity of the painted surface. The spaces herein are not wrought out of illusionistic ambiguities, but from plastic certainties.

Muster, 1960. Courtesy of the artist and Alan Cristea Gallery.

So how good are these works? For me, they are the best of Ayres’s career. It would have been interesting to directly compare them with slightly later works from 1961 to 1965, such as Scott and Lure, both 1965, where perhaps the influence of William Scott and Patrick Heron is noticeable (and which clearly develop out of works like Muster) and where the elements become more separated and dispersed upon and across what is more decidedly a (usually white or canvas) background, perhaps more of an overt picture plane. The best works in this present show I think make both Scott and Heron (even in his best late-fifties phase) look flat-ish and over-careful, almost over-designed, a little static. That is to exaggerate for the sake of the comparison, but I do want to stress how good these works are. Look, for example at the almost-modelled, roundish-pinkish-thing with ochre and black surround which kind of revolves in from the left of the picture in Muster. Heron never made anything so visual/physical as that. I’d be confident the best of these works would hold their own against any Pollock or Mitchell, though Ayres achievement over her full career comes nowhere near to matching theirs. It is in fact a shame that this zenith is so brief. Nevertheless, she did them, and you can’t take that away from her. They present to me as fine examples of the potential of abstract painting to provide a genuine spatial and plastic experience.

So what about the emoting over our landscape muse? I suspect we will argue endlessly about this, but speaking for myself, I can well do without it. Does an emotional response to art require an outside reference? Perhaps, yes; except to say that the outside reference, for me, is the abstract painting itself. It is outside of me, it is not me, just as a landscape or a life-event is not me. Why can we not look at abstract art, or any art, freely and without the imposition of our own false emotions? In any case, when we look at a mountain or cloud or ocean, do not these things evoke great feelings in themselves? And why do we feel these feelings? Are we seeing mountains as metaphors too? For those who see everything as representing something else, where does that ridiculous chain of association end, or rather, begin?

I think not. I think the opposite. I think that if we are visual people, we can get a big emotional hit out of what is in fact the abstract-ness of a mountain or cloud; and that those mountains and clouds are not personal to me or anyone, they have for the most part no special associations for me or anyone; and yet for all that they are still meaningful to us. Similarly, with art, you can get the real emotional stuff out of the abstract-ness, not the literalness; with the added bonus that art has over nature that it is wrought out of material by a human hand under the sway of a human imagination. The humanity of it communicates naturally, if it is good; you don’t need to load it up with any other baggage.

And by the way, you won’t get this experience from reproductions. I haven’t seen a reproduction of these works anywhere, and especially not in the catalogue, that gets near to properly ‘reproducing’ their genuine achievements. Get to Hastings!

Robin Greenwood
November 2012

  1. Will said…

    Hi, I found your discussion after seeing Gillian Ayres ‘Break Off’ for the first time last Saturday at the Tate ‘Housewarming’ and being bowled over by it. I wanted to take it home and hang it on the biggest wall of my house. For me its power lies not just in the painterly effects and character interactions but in the cocktail of associations that I personally can make from it. The more abstract a painting is, the more possibility there is for a viewer is to make their own personal interpretation and meaning. I was able to read the painting as a new extension to my current thinking, understanding and ideas. For me its power would be diminished if I could only see it as a combination of original painterly characters dancing about in a void unrelated to anything within my experience (though it is still uniquely beautiful simply as that).
    As to ‘Break off’ being fragmented, loose and not quite working, I think that the lack of integration here allows the viewer to break off the characters from the painting and relate to them as separate entities. The characters are still moving. Some are already floating off (or onto?) the edge of canvas. To me to have some aspect unresolved is a quality of genuine painting. The viewer has some work to do. I would always pick the challenging, awkward and alive over anything erring towards the slick!

  2. Robin Greenwood said…

    Having just looked at Ayres’ 1961 painting ‘Break Off’, now on show at Tate B (April), it has confirmed for me, 5 months after writing this review, that the works discussed here, in particular ‘untitled’ and ‘Muster’ from the year before, were better in all aspects. Despite a little of ‘Muster’s’ physicality still remaining, along with yet again some really nice handling of thin paint (now on canvas rather than hardboard), ‘Break Off’ has too much casual drawing, is too fragmented, and does less to integrate figure and ground into a whole space. It is nevertheless the best work in the room (of 60′s stuff), apart from Caro’s ‘Early One Morning’ (though I’m a bit sick of seeing that); but it has for me the seeds of Ayres’ decline as a progressive abstract painter, which has ultimately resulted in her pictures being for many years now overwhelmed by design and (thickly drawn) figurative images.

    • Sam said…

      I don’t think I disagree with the assessment of quality – but it is interesting that you see the openness of Break-Off leading to a decline. If Ayres later work does decline over-fullness, rather than the relative emptiness of Break-Off is surely more the problem? I realise that emptiness / fullness are not straightforward things in painting.

      • Robin Greenwood said…

        I agree that one of the problems with later work is that it is literally too full of stuff, and I like the openess of this work. But it is the lack of integration of those floating, ‘drawn’ elements that means this painting, for me, doesn’t quite come together. It is not the openess that I think links to the later decline, but the more graphically drawn image. A bit subtle, perhaps, but this is the ‘fragmentation’ I was meaning. The whole painting is no longer ‘brought on’ to the same level, as it is in ‘Muster’.

        As you move into the sixties and seventies, a great deal of abstract painting goes further down this road, and Ayres herself goes through a short period when her work looks more like textile design than painting.

      • Sam said…

        Does what you mean by ‘graphically drawn’ necessarily lead to ‘fragmentation’? Or to look at it the other way does graphically drawn always opposed to integration? Could you have, in your opinion, a fully successful painting with a graphically drawn image?

      • Robin Greenwood said…

        Not sure. Can you think of a good example?

      • Sam said…

        Or to look at it from another way – does the ‘graphically drawn’ in the case of Break-Off refer to the fact that the different shapes are discrete, separated from each other; or the way in which they are drawn – perhaps the way some are outlined…

      • Sam said…

        there does seem to be a link between Break-Off and Sundark Blues, also in the Tate. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/ayres-sundark-blues-t07003

      • Robin Greenwood said…

        Well, I suppose all of that… I’m working backwards here from a position of thinking the painting doesn’t quite work, and why not?… rather than a dogmatic position on ‘graphic’ drawing in painting. Generally, though, I don’t on the whole like being made aware of drawing in painting, nor do I like work where the elements have a ‘graphic’ relationship, rather than a painterly one. (I think those two aspects are separate things, though maybe linked in this work.) What do I mean by ‘graphic’? I suppose I mean not integrated into the space of the painting…? though that begs more questions…

      • Robin Greenwood said…

        Yes, good comparison. Here, I think the painting has pretty much gone, in favour of a design…or at least a scheme, which is drawn and filled in?

      • Sam said…

        There was that Greenberg quote in David Ryan’s article in which he spoke about pictorial space breaking and recombining its elements – perhaps graphic images are resistant to that? (or tend to more resistant?)

      • Robin Greenwood said…

        Well that gets close to something. I think in really good painting you can get around the thing in all sorts of ways and directions, from one element to another, as indeed it recombines in different ways. Is this what maybe in part constitutes wholeness? Whereas in graphics or design, relationships are either absent or static.

      • Robin Greenwood said…

        At which point (to return to our other argument) one might say that the fixed graphic formalism that dictates too much to the painting becomes an idea that stands in the way of any real pictorial discovery.

      • Noela said…

        Just want to ask Robin Greenwood if he thinks that graphic composition should be avoided in abstract painting as opposed to figurative painting such as in the Van der Weyden Columba triptych for instance.
        Are you saying visually graphic abstract painting is not as convincing as something more loosely handled?

      • Robin Greenwood said…

        I think that is quite a complex question. I don’t think the Van der Weyden is at all graphic – though of course he or his assistants would have drawn it out from possibly some kind of fixed scheme. That is not to say that there isn’t lots of figurative painting that fails, for me, on those terms. But maybe in figurative art the problem is different. Maybe the figurative spatial content more often than not insists that you build the thing in a certain way that is believable for that space (though I don’t mean naturalistic); whereas in abstract painting you are inventing from scratch on a flat ground, so you are immediately faced with the prospect of flatness, with no spatial content at the outset to pull you out of it. If you then immediatly give in to that flatness, by designing, drawing, whatever, in two dimensions, as so much abstract painting to my eyes does, then you lose the huge potential of inventing for yourself a fluid, coherent and complex abstract space. The latter is not, I don’t think, dependent upon how you ‘handle’ the paint, whether loosely of tightly. I would only say that the spatial ‘content’ of the work, when finally discovered, perhaps needs to be, so to speak, watertight.

        Of course, lots of abstract painters (and writers) go deliberately for the flatness. But I think we need to move on from that.

      • Noela said…

        I see what you are saying about expressing spatial qualities in abstract painting, and how Gillian Ayres’ later works lack that quality. Would you describe the Van der Weyden as more illustrative if not graphic? Or do you see ‘painterly’ as state of excitement and movement as opposed to stasis which can creep into graphic work?

      • Robin Greenwood said…

        I think your last sentence is a very good way of describing the difference.

        I think I would apply that to the Weyden. It’s a very full-on visual experience, and it allows you to move freely around the space it creates. And although it is figurative, and has a story, it is as much an imagined, invented space as any abstract painting – probably more so.

      • Robert Linsley said…

        Interesting discussion about unity. I take it Robin is talking about a picture with discrete outlined forms, and he prefers something softer, with forms that have less distinct edges – which he sees as more conducive to a painterly unity. Not sure, but that’s what I’m seeing in my mind’s eye. If that’s the case, I don’t necessarily agree, because I can think of pictures with clear edges around all the forms which are very much unified – my own for example. I also have to observe that lines don’t have to be drawn out to be present, and that a picture might have both soft areas with gentle tonal transitions and clear, sharp edged forms with lines that run between and through all those things without actually being part of any of them – as in Poussin for example, or Cezanne, or my work again. I agree with the need to move on from flatness, but don’t find “painterliness” to be necessarily exciting or moving. Today it is normally just conventional, ingratiating, and without resistance. Hard and soft should both be present in the painter’s toolbox.

      • Robin Greenwood said…

        I don’t think I have detailed a preference for hard or soft edges. It’s irrelevant. If I’ve used the term ‘painterly’, it was to make a contrast with an unintegrated graphic style.

        Painterly gesture is as much a cliche as hard edge geometry. Generally, I like to see as much variety as possible in each individual painting. But if you went all out for that as an intention, it would be just as false. The question is, what is the spatial content, and how are you going to best bring it about. Everything else follows.

      • Robert Linsley said…

        Robin keeps harping on space, which he sees as the great frontier for abstraction. Hope I’m not putting words in his mouth again, but that’s what I see. But then he sounds like no one so much as Frank Stella circa 1985, an artist he deplores. Is this an irony? Maybe not, because as Robin should know, it’s not the theory that counts but the accomplishment.

        In any case, all definitions are forms of failure. Why should anyone care if an artist invents a coherent abstract pictorial space? It’s what they do with it that matters. No formal element has any value in itself, the magic of art is in how space enables form or form produces space, or maybe it’s how forms emerge in time or how time emerges out of space or cool makes warm or light dark – whatever. It’s not fixable.

      • Sam said…


  3. Sam Cornish said…

    I like this, the second paragraph of Rilke’s book on Rodin:

    “Rodin’s message and its significance are little understood by the many men who gathered about him. It would be a long and weary task to enlighten them; nor is this necessary, for they assembled about the name, not about the work, a work which has grown far beyond this name’s sound and limitations, and has become nameless as a plain is nameless or a sea that has a name but on the map, in books, and to men, but which is, in reality, but distance, movement and depth.’

  4. John Pollard said…

    I agree that it is often complete conjecture, and perhaps laziness, that leads critics to allude to stuff outside the work itself, which often does a disservice to the work (and hence the artist) whether the reference is a landscape or biographical, or about process.

    Simple, interesting landscape structures can be aesthetically interesting and meaningful and the idea of experiencing ‘seeing’ paint on a support in the same way that one can see an interesting cloud or tree is a pertinent idea for those of us interested in abstract work.

    So often the “outside reference” to something else seems to be a diversion from talking about the quality of work itself – rather than talking about whether it works (what does it do?) someone tries to impress by talking about the process, the artist’s emotional life, the politics, the technicalities.

    What Robin does really well (for me anyway) is to continuously (and in various ways) bring us back to the work itself, which is an utterly democratic process where the viewer can engage on an equal footing with the artist, biographer, curator (and fellow viewers).

    The importance of “what it [the work] does” is, for me, a bit like asking the philosopher to explain what his complex philosophy actually says that is meaningful about how we live. That is, what is it that this “baggage”, these “metaphors”, “outside references”, say that is meaningful about this painting in front of us. And this is often not much; it feels very lazy, and sloppy, to me.

    • Noela Bewry said…

      I think I know what you are saying. Do you feel, however , one should ignore the titles Gillian Ayres gives, for instance ‘Cumuli’ or “Muster’, so as not to be distracted by landscape, or other, references?

      • John Pollard said…

        I don’t think that a title has anything to add to the quality of a painting.
        The question of how a title can interfere with the painting is interesting.

    • Noela Bewry said…

      In response to your comment below I tend to agree that a title does not add anything to the quality of a painting, or sculpture for that matter.
      If there has to be a title I prefer it to have relevance otherwise it can be a puzzling kind of conceit.
      I read that Ayres, [in Mel Gooding's appraisal] often used titles as add ons after the main event , sometimes thought up by relatives or friends.
      I feel as a viewer I can discard any impression the title might make if it interferes with my connection to a piece of work.
      These Paintings from the 50s feel like Gillian Ayres was looking for something and found it. I am sure they are every bit as amazing and powerful as Robin Greenwood says they are. Lets hope they go on tour !

  5. Marguerite Knight said…

    I agree with Robin Greenwood,that this appears to be her best work,of that time in painting, but looking more dynamic now than the later works, which are so associated the’marvel’of using extremely thick paint.
    Also, I agree that this tired tendency to link abstraction to landscape and/or emotional states is very limited and misleading (regardless of what Howard Hodgkin hopes).This speaks to the obsession with both landscape and the unfortunate need to look for some ‘meaning’ in the work. However, I disagree with his reference to the flat careful appearance of some paintings by Heron and Scott. Thoughtout the history of abstraction there has been both approaches, and one reaction of the post-abstract expressionists was to produce such work.

  6. David Evison said…

    Yes Robin, I do get to Hastings, it is where I live when I´m in UK and this is a must see show.
    After the chalky banalities of Rose Wylie and the glistening rigidity of Gary Hume its 3rd time lucky at Jerwood.
    Ms Wardle seems rather confused. Why discuss her intro.?
    You get serious with ” a wonderful and first rate show” and absurd with “..would hold their own against Pollock or Mitchell”.
    Any Joan Mitchell would suffer next to these Ayres, but a good Pollock would kill her.
    She was never able to make a career from these as there was no Brit eye good enough to tell her it was hot,as Greenberg told Frankenthaler.
    The 3 vertical formats are stunning. I think she painted them on the floor and these narrow vertcals would have meant working from the sides.Thats my explanation why they are so special, it generated a headlong rush of colour patches towards the top, top heavy like Chinese landscapes.
    Her pictures using regular formats are more conventional and too English for me.Its the Grand Manner again, filling the whole surface with striking passages.
    Here is a painter who is not afraid to express her feelings. Thankyou Gillian!

    • Sam said…

      Hi David, interesting. I thought the verticals were the best. They seemed tighter that the spreading horiztonals. Particularly the thin purple one in the main gallery. Though the most vivid impression I retained was of the ‘nest’ of shapes that were suspended right at the foot of the painting.

  7. Robin Greenwood said…

    Be not afraid to disagree, Mr. Barker, not on this site at least.
    And yes, I am a little harsh on Ms. Wardle; but then I happen to think it is important to try over and again to define what is and what is not proper to abstract art; and to discriminate against art and writing about art that dissembles or falsifies this thing that I really value. Of course, this is just my opinion… but it is not a theoretical pursuit or an argument for the sake of it; it will impact in practice (mine, anyway). I don’t think the way to make abstract art more compelling and/or interesting (or to avert a decline back to minimalism) is to include figurative or metaphorical references, as is popularly attempted by any number of artists, and encouraged by any number of critics and commentators. It was attempted here, not by the artist, but by the interpreter; Ms. Wardle is someone in a position of authority in the artworld. Had I felt her interpretation to be justified, I could have let it pass as a way to introduce the public to Ayres work, though I dislike even that. But as I thought it went so much against the endeavour of the work itself, I objected strongly to the catalogue (though I dare say Ayres herself would no longer object).
    It is indeed very difficult to write about visual art, though I see that as no reason to give up on it, or indeed to think it less important than writing about particle physics. Generally, we could all be more accurate in how we write about art. And, as I say, a better definition of abstract art may help us focus on what works and what doesn’t.

  8. paul barker said…

    I couldnt disagree more Im afraid, I would place Ayres up there with Pollock & I see the works in this show as from one of her weaker periods.
    On the more general points, Greenwood is a bit hard on Wardle, its an exhibition note not a treatise on particle physics. Somebody once said that writing about Art was like dancing about architecture – the connections are either metaphoric & tangential or journalistic & beside the point.