Abstract Critical

Two Exhibitions of Paintings by Pete Hoida

Written by Ben Wiedel-Kaufmann

Moreninta Silenciosa, 2011, 105 x 244cm

Moreninta Silenciosa, 2011, 105 x 244cm

There is much to be thankful for in the dogged determination of Pete Hoida’s generation of British abstract practitioners. Sustained by close friendships and a passionate commitment to the historical continuum of painting rather than professional allegiances, commercially rewarded nihilism or over-theorised (and under realized) notions of political agency, they have long been carrying the flag for an ambitious programme of abstraction. In the face of relative institutional neglect and the divergent ambitions of younger generations they have continued, in varying degree, to make art which is sincere in its commitments and experimental in its approach. This combination is in abundant evidence across Hoida’s two current exhibitions in Stroud, and is very rarely accorded enough value.

A corollary of relative institutional neglect is a tendency towards ossified critical positions. Caught up in the backlash against Greenbergian aesthetics, a tendency to ‘bridge the gulf between the ardent spirituality of the Abstract Expressionists… and the over-cool design-conscious aesthetic of the post painterly generation’ [1] has been read all too frequently as historical anachronism, formalist dogma or outmoded stagnation. Hoida’s work reminds us of the fallacy of such dismissals. Whilst Hoida no doubt establishes a dialogue with mid-century American painting – from the formal and gestural concerns of the Abstract Expressionists through to the surface treatments of Frankenthaler, Olitski and Poons – it is the wealth of visual propositions and the vivacity of the pictorial incidents carried in the work that accounts for its power.

Ezekiel, 2011, 106 x 124cm

Ezekiel, 2011, 106 x 124cm

My introduction to Hoida’s work came a month ago through a small catalogue of the exhibition of new work on display at The Museum in the Park in Stroud. Morenita Silenciosa, 2012, had impressed in reproduction – appearing to extend connections to Robert Motherwell’s Elegies and Hoyland’s late infinity space paintings. It was my pleasure that such comparisons were proved to be, at best, simplistic. Whilst the central cluster of paint does have something of the Elegiac, the tonal and gestural modulations within the form capture our intrigue in the flesh. The swirls of curving paint, which alternate between a transparent ghostly presence and a gestural, roaming calligraphy, in fact seem closer to Pollock than Motherwell (though they are much more measured). Controlled within a formal unit, however, the gestural marks remain balanced within the wider spatial structure of the painting. Our minds may glide over the dynamism of the marks, but it is their resolution within the canvas as a whole that holds our attention.

If there is undoubtedly a basis of comparison with Hoyland (and Olitski) in the cosmic sense of deep space that opens up behind the foregrounded form, Morenita Silenciosa complicates the spatial continuum. With the hold of the pink and white blobs on the surface, the scattering of yellow across the celestial backdrop, the shadows of black which sit as ripples in the ground, the playful impression of what looks like a barbeque grill burnt into the upper right, the carefully modulated drips which anchor the central form to the edges and surface of the canvas, we are given a tremendous range of marks and gestures. This punctuates the seduction and ease of visual habitation we feel before Hoyland’s late sublime and creates a more complex structural rhythm across the canvas and between the surface and recessional space than we find in Olitski. We are held between structure and expanse, recession and flatness, sublimity and artifice.

Sprechgesang, 2012, 92 x 243cm

Sprechgesang, 2012, 92 x 243cm

The range of perceptual incidence offered by these alternations – above and beyond any theoretical complexities – marks their appeal. The four works in the show which broadly mirror Morenita Silenciosa’s format, show Hoida playing with the lowest thresholds of his colourism and holding it in balance with a subtle tonal control. The paintings have a dusk-like quality – their small flickers of colour by turn illuminating or emerging from the half-toned backdrops. In balance with the baroque space of the ground the licks of paint reveal Hoida’s mastery of colour as a spatial agent. As such, we gain a hint of Matisse’s influence or the white surface flickers of Constable, in paintings that, in reproduction, seem to be millions of miles from either.

In Sprechgesang, the format is complicated – compellingly so – by the intrusion of a second globular entrail, which hugs the horizontally stretching central form. Here a representational flicker of passing clouds is too strong to go unnoted, but the strength of the association lies not in any representative fidelity so much as in a phenomenological association. What strikes is the harnessing of a sense of liminality often experienced in landscape. Above and beyond any specific passing of clouds the relation of the two forms – their locking, mirroring and weighted interaction – evokes something of the perceptual tension experienced in constructing a memory – the strange sensation by which we feel ourselves fixing our impressions of visual incidents in landscape, even as we remain aware that the real force of what we see lies precisely in its temporal unfolding. This sensation of loosely harnessed instability resonates across much of Hoida’s oeuvre and perhaps best summarises the strong, but somewhat elusive, relation of his work to the natural world. In his approach to edge, space and structural disposition the architectonic never quite succeeds in interrupting the sensation of transience. [2] This persists even amidst the paintings with geometric elements, which could be seen, broadly, to make up the rest of the exhibition of new work; from the clear foregrounding of geometric units against the edges of the canvas in works like Joshua and Ezekiel to the floating, near-geometric forms in Fire in the Iron or Big Pitman.

Big Pitman, 2013, 110 x 239cm

Big Pitman, 2013, 110 x 239cm

Of the four Big Pitman, 2013 is by a distance the most ambitious painting. Here Hoida seems to be setting the more architectonic balancing of tonal units across the canvas which characterized his work of the preceding period (see The Pearl-Oyster and the Fox Fur, 2009 – on show at St Mary of the Angels) in a dialogue with the kind of dappled infinites and subtle tonal modulation of the recent work. There is something decidedly and joyfully anarchic in the complexity of the result – with drips, stains, washes, veils, dapples, strokes and sprays of paint combining to create something closer to the excitement of deep spatial articulation in early Russian constructivism than the expanses of late Hoyland.

Joshua, 2011, 133 x 38cm

Joshua, 2011, 133 x 38cm

Big Pitman is a painting I would like more time with as I left remaining unconvinced as to whether it resolves. For all the baroque variety of incidence, the fixity of that (hyper foregrounded?) white in the centre seems to sit awkwardly amidst the diverse textural (but much less definitive spatial) assertions of the surrounding canvas. There is a floating sensation – of a distinctly deep space variety – but the central form draws us away from the surrounding interplays time and time again. The surround has a tendency to assert itself as textural – like veils of spatially charged chainmail sheeting – but does not hold our focus nor create an architectonic balance to match the progressive thrust of the central form.

Fire in the Iron, 2012, 131 x 135cm

Fire in the Iron, 2012, 131 x 135cm

Fire in the Iron, 2012, for me veers too far in the direction of a centralized form against an unconvincing ground – and may offer a note of warning. The strange yellow anchor lines reduce the spatial construction of the scene to something approaching a representation of a space satellite in front of a pebbledash cell diagram. Whilst the variety of marks continue to impress they too often feel in conflict with the spatial assertions of the ground. We can circulate the form, but its centralized grip against the unambiguously flat sprays and drips reduces the image quality and spatial interplay to a kind of roughly organized Halley-like frontal form floating before a textural, slightly recessed, but ultimately disappointingly flat ground.

If such works sometimes fail they also reveal the extent to which Hoida continues to push his work in new directions – to combine surface, marks, structure and colour in renewed formats and not to rest upon the spatial or structural accomplishments of previous bodies of work. It is a refreshingly open approach that suggests a deep confidence in the continuing possibilities offered by his practice and the importance of finding new means by which to enrich the perceptual potential of abstract painting.

Weston Central, 1993, 118 x 282cm

Weston Central, 1993, 118 x 282cm

Hoida’s tendency to alternate and test new formats is visible across the three decades of work on display at the small church in Brown’s Hill. Three paintings in particular caught my attention. Weston Central, seems to suggest that the Halley comparison may be more than just a reflection of the recent preoccupations of this site – its florescent pink, topped with scrawling white and green lines have a synthetic bombast that brings back something of Halley’s anti-pastoral preoccupations. What marks it out though is more familiar – a lingering sensation of indeterminacy, the refusal to reduce edges to definitive divides, the extension of diverse spatial and textural assertions around which we must feel our way through a process of mutual inflection – a canvas which cries out to be inhabited even as the surface complicates our motion.

The Pearl-Oyster and the Fox Fur, 2009, 65 x 221cm

The Pearl-Oyster and the Fox Fur, 2009, 65 x 221cm

The Pearl-Oyster and the Fox Fur, 2009 and Damson Hull, 2008 show an array of modulated tones, gestures and textures interlocking in what is perhaps (to followers of Hoida’s generation) a more familiar structural layout. The works are, despite the generational association, accomplished and embody something fantastically incomplete, their variously handled (semi) planar slabs, seeming to float behind the surface in a perpetual instability, our eyes slipping over their edges and around the spatial and structural assertions of the scene. Here, once more, is that sense of liminality and perceptual intrigue. The subtle disposition of colour and structure, space and surface, offer a range of visual incidents that seems to be forever arrested in the process of transformation.

Damson Hull, 2008, 136 x 324cm

Damson Hull, 2008, 136 x 324cm

Pete Hoida’s two exhibitions serve as a potent reminder of the strength of a generation of English painters who continue to find their inspiration in the realm of the visual possibilities of abstract painting of broadly Greenbergian lineage – but also look far and wide in their exploration of paintings’ continuum. The paintings’ charm derives from the rich visual incidents they continue to gather in their midst. Far from the elitism with which such a lineage is charged by post-modernist attackers there is a fantastic accessibility to Hoida’s painting. It was an accessibility I felt most forcefully on my return from his exhibition, listening to Miles Davis’ trumpet against Jimmy Cobb’s soft snare drum in Blue in Green and glancing out of the train window to note the dappled yellow and green of a passing rape field. The soft interpenetration of texture, tone and rhythm alongside a certain excitement in my knowingly futile attempts to fix something of their fugitive presence in my mind resonated strongly with Hoida’s painting.[3]

Pete Hoida: The Black Morar Series 2010-2012 is on at The Museum in the Park, Stroud until the 7th of July. Running simultaneously at St Mary of the Angels, Brownshill, Stroud is Pete Hoida: Paintings 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 00’s.

 

[1] Alan Gouk: New Paintings, Poussin, 2012

[2] This interpretation was given considerable succor by a brief conversation with Mel Gooding, during a chance meeting as we passed around the retrospective exhibition.

[3] This ending was written before reading Sam Cornish’s rather similar account of Motherwell on the bus. Passing windows seems to be in the air.

 

  1. Patrick Jones said…

    Well Done Pete for producing such an inspiring body of work.Sadly I wasnt able to see it being busy in Dublin with my own,but thanks to Sam Cornish for linking the two shows.The link ,apart from our unfashionable status,seems relevant from both our decisions to move a long way out of London to pursue our practise.Personally I rarely have the kind of studio visits from artists that were commonplace in the 80s.I sink or swim on my own judgement.The existance of Abstract Critical as a centre of discourse makes up for our isolation and Im delighted to be included on it ,Many Thanks

  2. Alan Gouk said…

    Sorry — it should be union with poetry.

  3. Alan Gouk said…

    Perhaps not the best site for this, but the computer is going to sleep now and I’m going back to Scotland. But I would urge anyone out there who has a nose for historical parallels to read the chapters from Richard Taruskin’s History of Western Music Volume 3 – The Nineteenth Century, on “the New German School”; Wagner; and Brahms – before embarking on the 20th Century. Neo-Hegelian “permanent revolution” of historicist progressivism versus continuity of concern, a classical engagement with the “permanent collection”, ( what would eventually become Eliot’s Tradition and the Individual Talent”
    I find myself to be a confirmed “Brahmin” in this debate – to quote just one paragraph on Brahms’s 1st Symphony —-
    “At the very least, it is not the sort of comfortable music one associates with epigones. It is not just a pleasing play of tones , but a gesture. We may interpret the thwarted chromatic impulse however we wish: as repressed libido, as counter thrust against the” New Germany”, as anything
    that may strike us as relevant or illuminating either with respect to Brahms or to ourselves as listeners. All such readings, however, can only be partial. They place limits on a meaning that, in its powerful inchoateness ,precedes and subsumes all semantic paraphrases. And that, we may recall, was precisely the essence and purpose of “absolute music”, lately rejected by the “New Germans” in the name of “union and poetry’. Brahms rejected the union, and by the force of his example restored the viability of pre-semantic or “absolute” musical meaning, the sort of meaning that is indistinguishable from “structure” ( that is , from the particularities of syntax that, by eliciting affect, produces a meaningful effect ). “

  4. Irwin Shure said…

    Whilst Robin Greenwood has been looking for “a way forward for abstraction”, it appears he has been pre-empted. According to Alan Gouk, Pete Hoida has (necessarily subconsciously) sleep-walked into it. Wether this is how he got there I cannot begin to guess. He’s done it, and without as far as I am aware, claiming to be putting together a programme for the next big thing; does any artist succeed by talking about it before doing it ?

    Having briefly scanned BWK’s article on Hoida’s exhibitions, I decided to make a diversion on my journey to Hay-on-Wye. I had a memory of seeing some interesting abstract paintings by Hoida in Greenwich, what must have been in the eighties or nineties (?) but seemed a hundred years ago. And again, three or four paintings appeared in a Cork Street gallery some five or so years ago. I enjoyed pictures in both gallery and church but (not being a painter) found it difficult to come to some definite opinion about the relative merits of various canvases or for that matter periods in his work.

    Whilst away in Hay I re-read BWK’s review with interest; and began to consider if a ‘correct’ reading of the paintings was possible. This is I think an interesting question but one I am not in a position to properly address, particularly as I am not a painter. However, this led me back to the catalogue introduction by Mel Gooding and back to the exhibitions on my return journey. With regard to BWK’s characterisation of the color in Weston Central having synthetic bombast “that brings back something of Halley’s anti-pastoral preoccupations” I could not agree. BWK uses the word “florescent”, which I think is exact in its meaning of “bursting into flower”. The colour in this work seemed to me no brighter, no more intense, than that of flower garden in summer at early dusk. With reference to Halley the word “fluorescent” is more accurate and as he sees it anti-pastoral, whereas Hoida”s color in this as in the other paintings is utterly naturalistic, powerful without being forced.

    A significant disagreement was in the gallery, and I am still uncertain where I stand on this; I had a distinct preference for Big Pitman and Fire in the Iron over the quieter works. Was it, I wondered, that BWK favored the work that seemed to have been pared down to fewer essential elements, making it easier and more immediately comprehensible? Behind the strength in color, and multiple diversity in these two works lay a complexity that was either bewildering or forceful. I remain with my memory of this experience partly convinced by BWK yet uncertain of my view.

    Looking at the reviews/criticism of Hoida’s previous exhibitions on his website I note that several have commented on a relation to Ivon Hitchens, mainly, and rather superficially to do with the proportions of the canvas, and I think a simplistic take on Hoida’s engagement with nature. Mel Gooding in the catalogue introduction has a more original and insightful take on nature in abstraction and Hitchens/Hoida. I would have welcomed a development of his forward.

    Finally, Robin Greenwood, poetry cannot be dismissed, any more than music, as a “cop-out”. Terry Ryall already clearly explained why the poem “Faith” was relevant to the article on the John Armleder Show. I’m sure that the tone in which Greenwood expresses himself , which is a very large part of what he is always saying, will not have been missed by many.

    I for one welcome the fact that music has been mentioned by the commentators on this page. Whilst Gouk so perceptively appreciates the new developments these canvases achieve, and so deftly uses examples from another art form to illustrate his thesis, (without conflating the two), we are aware of one of our best painters and most original writers on art. If he sometimes digresses it should be forgiven. BWK draws his neatly put together writing to a close with a poetic reflection on his return (to London?) accompanied by Miles Davis alongside Jimmy Cobb. Rick Vick seems to have been inspired to a couple of lines of poetic prose by the exhibition. When he visits the church of “St Mary of the Virgins” (sic) – read St Mary of the Angels – beneath the long sweep of the barrel vaulted ceiling he sees “ canvases like icons painted by fallen angels or made visionary by opium or mushrooms”. Hoida is here with Blue Bossa, with Morenita Silenciosa, and Sprechgesang. There is even a cheeky little painting (with disc, and why not; he seems to be saying lets confound the puritans!) called Dansette.

  5. Alan Gouk said…

    Just to forestall those wiseacres out there who will say that it is a truism that all piano works make the air in the room reverberate, I can’t help you if you are unable to sense the difference between the kind of noise Beethoven makes and the way Debussy uses the pedals to emphasise the sheer sound of overlapping layers suspended above and below one another. Debussy, himself a great pianist, used to play Beethoven with great vehemence, so he knew what he didn,t want to do.
    There are precedents in Beethoven,s “halo of trills” toward the end of the late sonatas, and in Lizst,s Jeux D,Eaux at the Villa D,Este and St. Paul Marchant sur les Flots, but as Debussy said, Lizst is still major and minor, still percussive conflict, dramatic resolution.
    This all prompted by the remarkable recording just playing on Radio 3 of Opus 111 on a Graff forte-piano by Ronald Brautigan. Somehow these older pianos allow the high, middle and low registers to separate out and give their individual characters better than the modern, if played as well as they are here.

  6. Alan Gouk said…

    Just as the kinds of sonority Debussy introduced into music for the piano for the first time, in which a physical reverberation animates the air in the room in live performance, and there is an optimum distance from which the listener can experience it , taken up by later composers in many forms without ever quite surpassing it,- so, a genuine colour painting, as Sam perceptively commented some time back, ” charges the space” in front of it, so that there is an optimum viewing distance, and the colour resonances seem to hang in the air out in front, creating an atmospheric buzz, not so much an illusion as a physical-optical sensation – a simple fact about the truly modern picture . Not all paintings, however much they may rely on colour chording, achieve this or wish to achieve it. There are other forms of tangibility just as persuasive, but when it does happen , it is because the painter has subliminally been alive to the possibility and sleep-walked his way towards it – because to do so deliberately would probably undermine the possibility. The curious fact about Pete Hoida’s new paintings is that this animation of the air in front of the picture has occurred by keeping the colour quiet, with subtle gradations of greyed blues ,violets and ochres against a grey ground, shading to black.
    It is gradation of colour which best gives atmospheric depth in painting, but here too it gives forward pressure , while strong oppositions assert the surface and the paint which carries them. Even in Damson Hull,from an earlier phase in Hoida’s work, the opposition of primary colours is avoided, mediated or interlaced with shades of grey [ though not fifty of them - sorry ], sometimes achieved by layering white strokes directly into black to produce a silken effect. This is a picture in which the physical surface is asserted more emphatically than in the sprayed-ground pictures which followed it, but between these two poles there is plenty of room for manoeuvre, and Hoida is well placed to continue to explore, – I’d say to mine this rich seam, if I hadn’t already banned metaphoric cliche from art-writing.
    This is not the woeful subjectivity-run -riot of David Sweet’s advancing trains and trench warfare, though he too seems to have picked up on something about the “presentness” [ Fried} of the modern picture. It used to be called " bodying forth".
    There has been far too much subjectivity in art writing in recent decades. What we need is some simple though hard earned objectivity. The big question about " presentness" is whether it is founded on objective fact, or a delusion of the observing subject; and can there ever be a definitive answer when the possibility of "the objectivity of taste" is confounded every day. No matter how awful the art --the Gallacher Bros, the Chapman Bros, --, there is always someone who is going to "like" it. I am not offering this analogy with Debussy's piano pieces [ Images, Estampes] as a direct formative or causal link with the recent Hoida’s , or as a validation of the methods of abstract painting in general, since they, [ music and painting ] are irreducible to one another – but just to indicate one aspect of the way the sensation of physicality in painting has mutated since cubism.

  7. Alan Gouk said…

    Sorry, not Dansette. I misread the catalogue layout. It is Implements in their Places I like. More comment to follow.

  8. Alan Gouk said…

    Just been to the Hoida show. Mel Gooding is correct. Damson Hull is a museum picture, only he doesn’t say which Museum he has in mind. Can’t see what the fuss is about Big Pitman. The white centre sits just fine. For me, Dansette is the best of the sprayed pictures. All in all, a very fine show from one of our best painters. Why the neglect? Because it’s just painting?

  9. Richard Vick said…

    Looking at the abstract canvasses painted by Pete Hoida exhibited at the Museum on the Park I was moved deeply by some, perplexed though not un-touched by others and confounded by one or two. I thought to myself, I do not have the language to explain these paintings to myself. A quote by Picasso sprang to mind: ‘Do not try to understand art’ and I felt a great relief and wondered on around the show in awe, wonder, my bewilderment replaced by a rich un-knowing.
    Later I read a long, erudite critique by Ben Wiedel-Kaufmann and was glad I had not read it before I experienced the intense rich physicality of the paintings. I had felt a little foolish reading his carefully chosen words, for although I realized he was trying to give context and understanding to the reader I did not want to engage with the paintings with my foolish mind. I tried to forget them when I visited the starkly beautiful church of St Mary of the Virgins where, beneath the long sweep of the barrel vaulted ceiling hung canvasses like icons painted by fallen angels drunk or made visionary by opium or mushrooms. Not the painting in the museum nor these on the stone walls were about cleverness; they spoke directly to spirit bypassing the unwise mind. Poetry might, just might be able to give apt response to these expressions of passion, humility, even grace.

    I have found some other words of Picasso which express something of what I mean. ‘Everyone wants to understand art. Why not try to understand the songs of a bird? Why does one love the night, flowers, everything around one, without trying to understand them?’
    And one other quote: ‘…..the picture lives only through the man who is looking at it.’

    Picasso quotes from: Picasso. In His Words Paviion Books 1993

  10. James Tartaglia said…

    Overall, this is a very good review. Firstly, because it shows appreciation of an artist who has stayed the distance and in the process developed his own personal and often compelling vocabulary. And secondly, because it does so in prose that is not as fuzzy and pretentious as most of the contemporary art criticism I have encountered. It does have a tendency to descend into a kind of quasi-philosophical poetry, to be sure, but that is typical of the idiom, and at least the author usually bases this on some kind of phenomenon, as for instance when reference is made to ‘the strange sensation by which we feel ourselves fixing our impressions of visual incidents in landscape, even as we remain aware that the real force of what we see lies precisely in its temporal unfolding’; vague, but perhaps not complete nonsense!

    The review goes a little downhill when it seeks to find specific faults with some of the paintings. The problem is one of consistency. In the paragraph on ‘Sprechgesang’, which was my favourite in the exhibition, the author says that in Hoida’s ‘approach to edge, space and structural disposition the architectonic never quite succeeds in interrupting the sensation of transience’; the context makes it clear that this is supposed to be a positive feature of the work, maybe even the defining positive feature of all the works. However immediately afterwards, it seems to be this very feature which is used to criticise ‘Big Pitman’ and ‘Fire in the Iron’: the central forms endlessly draw us away from the background, it is said, and this perhaps stops the paintings from ‘resolving’. But isn’t this the very feature of the ‘architectonic’ not ‘interrupting the sensation of transience’ which was being praised a couple of paragraphs back for producing the ‘sensation of loosely harnessed instability [which] resonates across much of Hoida’s oeuvre’? If it is the same feature, then the review is inconsistent, and if it is not, then it is too vague.

    • Ben Wiedel-Kaufmann said…

      Thank you James, for your detailed reading. I accept your accusations of a certain vagueness – so will try to clarify a bit.

      With regards to ‘Fire in the Iron’ and ‘Big Pitman’ – it is not that same balancing of transience and architectonic structure praised in Sprechgesang on which I hoped to raise my objections (though neither would I want to define that perceived balance as ‘the definitive positive’ of the paintings as a whole – much too vague a concept for that, I am afraid).

      The quotation you extract comes from a paragraph in which I was hoping to get to grips with a certain balancing of the two central forms in Sprechgesang – ‘their locking, mirroring and weighted interaction’ as I put it. I moved on (in perhaps an overly obscure tone) to try to explain that I found there to be something compelling about the way in which the architectonics (the fixity of those forms within the space of the canvas as a whole) never quite succeeds in overpowering the sensation of transience. Taking out the phenomological obfuscation, what I was hoping to drive at was that though the forms have a relatively fixed position on the canvas, they remain activated by a sense of dynamism. As my eyes moved about the canvas and between the loosely mirroring forms I found myself constantly redefining my conception of their position, weight and compositional hold in relation to the canvas as a whole. Here the architectonics are held in balance with, without overpowering, the sense of transience. (Damson Hull is another strong example of this dynamic).

      With ‘Fire in the Iron’, however, the central form had a tendency to overpower the surrounding canvas and, as such, reduce the opportunities for a similar kind of dynamic interaction. Each time the central form drew me back it remained largely unaffected by its relation to the surrounds. As such, I did not feel that the canvas was characterised particularly by a sense of transience or by a developed sense of architectonics – let alone a balance between the two. Whilst, ‘the architectonics don’t overpower the sense of transience’ therefore, this hardly seems worthy of praise given the low levels of both. It is the occassional balancing of the two forces – that ‘loosely harnessed instability’ – that I found compelling.

      (I wonder your thoughts on ‘Big Pitman’ and ‘Fire in the Iron’?)

      • James Tartaglia said…

        Thanks, that clarifies the point nicely. I’d guess that ‘Fire in the Iron’ isn’t aiming at the same kind of effect as the four cosmic ones – rather just a memorable foreground image. Not sure about ‘Big Pitman’, although I remember liking it at the time – maybe you’re right that the white is a bit overpowering.

  11. John Bunker said…

    The works look very strong and the essay is full of potential! Lovely combination! Great stuff!
    Here’s a quote looking to the future…..

    “Sooner or later, the scourge of contemporary art discourse- formalist, Greenbergian painting- had to return for a fresh reappraisal….. It should be no surprise that artists too young to have forged any steadfast ideological aversion to painting theories of the 1950s and 60s might also be able to contribute new interpretations of now archival material.”

    Michael Darling. “Monique Prieto at ACME. ” Art Issues, J/Feb 1996.

    Although Darling is talking about a very different kind of interpretation of formalism, I think the general gist of a positive reassertion of the power of abstract painting and sculpture in broader cultural contexts needs developing. That’s why Ben’s essay is so exciting.

  12. John Pollard said…

    These look interesting and strong, backed up by looking at more images on his website. Great use of the panoramic format. Also a refreshing variety. I would really like to see some in the flesh but don’t think I will be able to get to this exhibition.
    A new find for me so thanks for posting.