Comments on: Michael Kidner: Dreams of the World Order: Early Paintings Abstract Critical is a not-for profit company aiming to establish a new critical context for all generations of artists involved with ambitious abstract art. Sun, 09 Nov 2014 17:23:33 +0000 hourly 1 By: Nick Moore Sat, 27 Oct 2012 11:39:23 +0000 This article drew me to look at Kidner again, having seen his show at the RWA last year and not got past the hard edged, impersonal look; optical effect does not interest me – pure pattern, with no matter how many permutations and clever inversions, does not move me. What does interest me is something more personal and engaging in painting and John’s article drew my attention to this in the earlier pieces of work in this show at Flowers. I am drawn particularly to ‘Circle After Image’ from 1959/60 through to ‘Blue, Green and Grey’ from 1963 (as in the order of the catalogue) and also ‘Red, Green and Blue from 1963. From there on the painting gets tighter and more defined, hard edged if you like, I can’t find another more appropriate way of describing it at the moment, and I lose interest. I find the exploratory works on paper are more engaging.

There is a parallel in Frank Stella – the Black Paintings from 1958 to 1960 were personal, ‘handmade’, in that there were slight changes in the widths of the black or in the unevenness of the edges. They were not ruled up and strictly determined and the amount of the canvas strip left in between the black bands was not consistent either, due to the spreading of the black enamel paint ‘giving the unpainted interstitial strips a fugitive appearance’, as Rubin put it. It is in the particulars of this loose facture that the felt quality of the paintings resides, in the unevenness, the quirks and the lack of strict geometry. As Stella put it “the worthwhile qualities of painting are always going to be both visual and emotional..” and it is this quality that is also present in Kidner’s earlier paintings in this show. It is that handmade quality in the facture, the ‘scrubbed on’ quality of the paint, as John puts it, and the ‘handwriting’ that engage me. In the later paintings this quality is lost, just as Stella lost the same qualities in the shaped and geometric canvases from 1960 on, which became more deadened and clinical as time went on; the design and execution took over, with the ‘life’ in them determined by the reflective nature of the aluminium and later, copper, paint.

A quote from Kidners’ Flowers East catalogue from 2007 is quite illuminating in this context; “Painting is an intellectual pursuit. My mother was a farmer’s daughter, very conscious of her farming ancestry. At the end of a day’s painting, my body felt unemployed. Perhaps that is why I always feel a slight suspicion of painting. It does not get its hands dirty.” (my emphasis)
Without delving into the psychology of this statement, it is not a question of painting getting its hands dirty, but the painter getting stuck in, getting his hands dirty, and engaging with the material rather than the intellect. This is the ‘work’, which does not lead to a feeling of ‘unemployment’ but satisfaction and possibly a sense of meaning.

quotes – Rubin and Stella in Frank Stella, by William Rubin, MOMA, NY, 1970