Abstract Critical

Questions for Angela de la Cruz and Simon Callery: Enantiodromia Part I

Enantiodromia Installation image, courtesy of Fold Gallery

Enantiodromia Installation image, courtesy of Fold Gallery. L-R: Angela de la Cruz; Lawrence Carroll; Simon Callery (x2)

abstract critical asked a series of seven questions to the four artists currently showing in the Fold Gallery exhibition Enantiodromia. Below are the responses by Angela de la Cruz and Simon Callery; you can read what Lawrence Carroll and Onya McCausland had to say here.

abstract critical has previously posted two discussions with Callery, and here. Enantiodromia is on until the 10th of May.

Enantiodromia Installation image, courtesy of Fold Gallery

Enantiodromia Installation image, courtesy of Fold Gallery. L-R: Angela de la Cruz (x2); Onya McCausland (high on wall); Angela de la Cruz (on wall); Lawrence Carroll; Simon Callery

Angela de la Cruz 

Do you see your work as continuing or rejecting the tradition of painting?

I am continuing the tradition of painting. I use very good quality, traditional, materials. It is very important for me that everything is made to a very high standard so for that reason I use quite traditional methods. I believe that if you want to continue the language of painting, you have to use very good technical understanding and you have to know what you are talking about in terms of the history of painting. If you know that, then you can choose to reject it or break it.

What does the word ‘image’ mean to you?

I want to project an image of what my work is about, even if it’s quite abstract physically. I impress figuration on the outside of the painting through my titles, which are quite anthropomorphic.

The works in the exhibition tend to the monochromatic – what do you think lies behind this avoidance of complex colour?

I use the scheme of minimalism because it suits my work and my language. I often use the colours of what is currently in fashion, which I follow quite a lot. I believe fashion is a reflection of the economical times.

Are you an abstract artist?

Yes, I am an abstract artist but only aesthetically. I use the same colours most of the time, and the same shapes because I quite like to recycle everything so the works can be transformed into another work, which is quite traditional – artists have done that since the beginning of time.

Who are your antecedents?

Robert Ryman, Lucio Fontana, Luc Tuymans, Marcel Duchamp, a mix of Minimalist and Arte Povera artists. But I am influenced a lot by film directors such as Luis Buñuel, Jacques Tati, Lars von Triers, Herzog, at the moment I like Wes Anderson a lot. Fashion (especially the Belgian designers – Dries van Noten and Martin Margiela), literature, politics and everyday life are also great influences.

If you accept the idea that your work is three-dimensional or extended painting what distinguishes it from sculpture?

Nothing.

Why do you make physical objects when the whole breadth of the ever-expanding field is open to you?

The physicality of objects interests me, and I believe it is still relevant.

Enantiodromia Installation image, courtesy of Fold Gallery

Enantiodromia Installation image, courtesy of Fold Gallery. L-R: Simon Callery; Lawrence Carroll; Angela de la Cruz; Onya McCausland (on wall)

 

Simon Callery

Do you see your work as continuing or rejecting the tradition of painting?

Without a doubt I see my work as continuing a tradition of painting. Although, I don’t think it is possible to talk about ‘the tradition’ of painting without revealing the fact that this tradition has many strands and facets – some are deeply conservative and others progressive and experimental.

I would like to think I have learnt from and share the ambitions of the painters from the past who took risks and challenged the accepted conventions in order to keep painting vital. This is the strand of the tradition that I really value.

What does the word ‘image’ mean to you?

Magazines, newspapers, computers, mobile phones, hand held devices, televisions and cinema screens are all full of images. So are our roadsides, train stations, airports, shops, and city walls. Painting has undoubtedly contributed to this image-dominated environment because it is the medium that drove the development and production of the image. I would argue, as evidence of its current vitality, that it also the medium best placed to critique the way we currently use images and may be best placed to offer an alternative.

The works in the exhibition tend to the monochromatic – what do you think lies behind this avoidance of complex colour?

There is something idiotic about the sight of the painter’s palette with a long row of equally squeezed out colours, in a line, ready to make a picture. What I avoid by restricting colour is the dilemma of endless choice.

When I think of colour, I think of the different organic material or geology we dig up, grind down, burn or dissolve to transform into coloured pigments. I use them as a material element alongside the other materials that I use when I am making a painting. This can be wood, canvas, linen, aluminium or steel, threads, cord, pencil, paper, glue, screws and nails. When they come together as a painting, they form a complex of colour.

Are you an abstract artist?

Up to a point.

We need a new term. The term ‘abstract artist’ makes me think of the great experiment in painting at the beginning of the C20 in Paris more than anything else. By the time we get to Barnett Newman and the late 1940s the use of ‘abstract’ is inaccurate and misleading.

Who are your antecedents?

In relation to this show they are Lawrence Carroll and Angela de la Cruz.

I saw a shelf-like painting by Lawrence Carroll in the Panza Collection in Varese in the early 90s that I just couldn’t tear myself away from. I had not seen a painting that looked so unlike a conventional painting and yet was so totally and convincingly a painting. It was so full of suggestions of exciting possibilities of paintings to come.

A little later I remember watching open mouthed as Angela de la Cruz kicked a painting to life across the floor in her Kings Cross studio in London. This was at a time when I thought you should only really handle paintings with white gloves to keep the edges clean.

If you accept the idea that your work is three-dimensional or extended painting what distinguishes it from sculpture? 

What distinguishes my paintings from sculpture is that a painter has made them. No sculptor could make my paintings.

Actually, this is a question I get asked quite a lot. It is as if the success or failure of the painting depends on the answer. On reflection, that this seems to be an important question says more about a society that values specialization – in business, in education and of course, in art (otherwise how else could you market it?) – as a sign of success; to have a specialized product is ‘better’.

Yes, my paintings share qualities with sculpture and I embrace it. I am much more interested in collaboration, in sharing ideas and revealing shared common ground and ambitions with other art forms and disciplines. To be able to move around a painting and to navigate and explore it as lived experience, in common with three-dimensional objects like sculpture, is an example of this.

Why do you make physical objects when the whole breadth of the ever-expanding field is open to you?

 My best work emerges from working with materials. The ideas that keep me awake at night evaporate during the day to be replaced by ideas based in the realities of what materials can or can’t do and how we do or don’t respond to them.

I make physical paintings – because I am interested in the viewer as a physical being – a fully sentient, inquisitive, perceptive, decision-making, information-processing, emotional, idiosyncratic thinking being. I want the painting to involve and engage the full attention of that person.

 

  1. Katrina said…

    Great stuff! I would like to echo my comment made in Part 2. There is something very traditional about paintings having physicality – you only have to look at, for example, Medieval/Renaissance church paintings and the astonishing way they are placed, lit and constructed in order to reach out. (and it was a long time ago that a painting could have two sides, was very long along a wall or hanging off a ceiling.) I think many of these work reach out in a quieter more contemplative way and others pack a punch: as Simon says they all very much connect to the viewer but in different, complex and subtle ways. Tasteful it is not – challenging yes. I am sorry I missed the talk.