Abstract Critical

Two and a Half Dimensions: To Charge With Reality

Written by Marcus Harvey

Harry Thubron, Samurai Dyptych, Mixed media

‘Two and a half dimensions’ is a phrase I use to describe a doorway between wall-based painting and sculpture. The term was first coined by Harry Thubron whom I met at Goldsmiths in the 80’s, as a catch-all to describe wall-based work from collage to construction. Although slightly tongue in cheek, I think Thubron used the term to defend this territory as an area of practice in its own right. The wall ‘construction’ had become a prominent method of working after analytical cubism branched into synthetic cubism and collage was properly born. The flat support seemed the appropriate test bed for work that was attempting to physically incorporate what was being described through painterly illusion.  This type of wall construction underwent a similar bifurcation; one approach being the carved and modeled, the other, the synthetic version, was collage or assemblage and incorporated the readymade.

All the big beasts of modernist sculpture and beyond have spent time in this intriguing zone, probably because it has the property of conferring a sense of the super real on its constituent parts.

Adam Walker, Malevich, Mixed media

An object or a hunk of material that strains its attachment to the picture plain but at the same time defies gravity, not yet emerging into the physical sculptural world, has an arresting position precisely because it exists between the two.

My own approach to painting has sometimes emphasized the use of crude mass to create a presence in the painting. Going beyond paint, I   have developed a kind of hybrid mosaic where I can include objects and data from the world that perform as tonal brush marks. The intention was to go beyond the depictive and include parcels and packets of readymade information that can load up the reading of the image.

At this point one might question why I should call this exhibition Two and a Half Dimensions when it focuses equally on sculpture and wall-based work? In response, I wanted to use the term notionally, as a touchstone in selecting a group of sculptural paintings and painterly sculpture. The two and a half dimensional idea becoming the gateway or turnstile through which I could contemplate the relationship between painterly and sculptural ideas.

Tina Jenkins, Legends of the Fall series 5, Gloss paint on plastic

Perhaps I should define what I mean by painterly because that might throw light on what for me constitutes a painterly piece of sculpture or a painterly painting for that matter.

A watch word would be ‘transmutability,’ evidenced by brush marks or chisel slices or an arrangement of objects imbued with a freedom of movement that could quickly dissemble and reform as another object, even if this were not technically the truth of how an object was made.

The evident potentiality inherent in a work who’s surface is shifting and reconfiguring has at its core a link to the transubstantiation of matter, it sounds pretentious but I’ve always felt that humanity has a dull subconscious awareness that matter is made of tiny invisible units that bond and fragment in a constant cloud of activity.

Talking Art: An evening of conversation with artist, editor and curator Marcus Harvey accompanied by a selection of artists exhibiting in Two and a Half Dimensions at Pangolin London will be held on Monday 10th October at 6.30pm.

This discussion will be followed by a Q&A session and an exclusive viewing of the current show at Pangolin London.

Talking Art is a series of art lectures at Kings Place, tickets normally cost £6.50 but abstractcritical have reserved thirty tickets to be given free to abstract critical followers. Please email us at [email protected] if you would like a ticket.

Marcus Harvey, Heroic Head, Fired Stoneware