abstract critical will no longer be posting articles, and in about a fortnight will cease to be active. The 400 hundred ‘Notes’ and ‘Articles’ in the archive will continue to be accessible, and @AbstractCrit will continue to tweet news, reviews and opinion. I have been editor since June 2012, and I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the site since then, both above and below the line. I would also like to thank Penny Harris, Robin Greenwood and John Pluthero.
The twenty articles below were difficult to chose. I have tried to reflect the diversity of the site as well as the mainstream which runs through this diversity. Inevitably it also reflects my personal taste, and I’m sure there will be disagreements. If I were to make the selection again next week I would likely arrive at a very different list. There are in no particular order.
“An anonymous obituarist in the Times said that Alan Davie in the 1950’s had brought to full realisation the implications of Jackson Pollock’s painting of the 1940’s, fulfilling, or filling out his vision and in the process surpassing it. This is true. Davie’s primary imprinting is indeed on the 1942-43 Pollocks, Guardians of the Secret, 1943, The She-Wolf, 1943, Pasiphaë, 1943, and especially Male and Female, 1942-43.”
“I’ve enjoyed Frank Stella’s art since my own beginning as an artist, and the crucial thing has been the enjoyment. The intellectual or theoretical side was always evident—the literalness or factuality, the deliberate voiding of the subjective—and I never needed to take a course or read a tract to feel its necessity or reason, but overriding for me was the pleasure that accompanied the fact that I could also feel the artist behind the decisions.”
“Dickerman reveals the underlying motives of a context stripped focus on abstraction as an ill-defined Idea. In merging abstraction with the wider pull away from ‘historical conceptions of art’ of which it was a part, she attempts to brand abstraction as the progenitor of the conceptual movement. To do so overlooks the fact that Duchamp’s ‘anti-retinal’ work is, at best, only tangentially aligned with the wider logic of abstraction.”
Those present: Anthony Smart, Anne Smart, Emyr Williams, Robin Greenwood, Sarah Greenwood, Alexandra Harley, Patrick Jones, Desmond Brett, Helga Joergens-Lendrum, David Lendrum, Sam Cornish, Mark Skilton, Hilde Skilton, John Pollard. Published 28 August 2014
“I like the way parts of it seem to actually lift off. I keep looking at the profile of it and am amazed at how flat it actually is, because from various distances parts of it seem to almost bulge out, so you get this funny rippling feeling and these warm yellows seem to almost come off the canvas. And those two do it as well, Folie Ba Ba and Logie La La. They both have this feeling that parts of the painting coalesce together and actually bulge away and lift off the canvas. It’s like particular areas seem to separate themselves. I don’t know how they do it, but as a strange illusion it just seems to be particularly prevalent in these paintings.”
Robin Greenwood, 6 March 2011
“The semantics of contemporary art criticism allow for so many meanings of “abstract” that one can just about choose for oneself how it is defined. Everything from a shark in a tank to a smudged landscape, from a perfect cube to a pile of oranges, from a walk across the Andes to the lights going off and on; all have been described as abstract art. I guess what is meant here (mostly) is that it is not a depiction or a representation in paint etc. of some recognisable other thing; in which case anything and everything can be abstract art because anything and everything can be art.”
“In the notes you sent me you write about the need you have for (unresolved) conflict in your work, for working with ‘both sides of many coins’. In a very simplistic way three different techniques active in your recent work – that seem to partly merge with each other, whilst retaining a separate identity – are a loose gestural painting, automatic writing and collage. Do you see any of these as having a precedent other the others?”
“If you’re interested in contemporary painting you’ve probably noticed that a massive realignment in the art-world is underway. As if waking from a culturally induced coma, abstract painting is back and ready to make up for lost time. Leading the critical charge are what’s been christened “provisional” or “casual” paintings; flagship abstract styles that seem to embrace aesthetic poverty as a positive factor. Wildly diverse in scale, scope, media and quality, these paintings share few formal or technical traits and are bound together mainly by their inexplicable appeal to artists and writers alike. However, if you find the hype disproportionate to the reality of this revival of abstraction, you’re not alone. Here then, are three hypotheses that explain its current popularity.”
“A painting determines how you move in relation to it in order to see it, how you adjust to it, sometimes apparently in a random way or with a more conscious series of mental or physical adjustments. Time is needed to fine-tune, to just look, essential to make a genuine contact. In turn your temperament, mind and emotions determine how you relate to the paintings, which of your nuances respond to those in the paintings, as you look at the points of ignition within the exhibition. When they are good, as are many examples in this fabulous exhibition, you can be riveted to the spot, transformed to a state of stillness, manifesting movement within stillness, in which a sense of a man and his times, both vast and miniscule, materialises. The link between stillness and movement is the essence of the life and opens up when immersed in the simplicity and complexity of looking.”
“Are we wiser than our great-great-grandparents? They may have been wrong about much modern art, and their grandparents were likely wrong about Cézanne, but we are not wrong, so we must know so much more, be so much more enlightened. That might be so, but to be sure we might also want to take a look at what actually happened to Cézanne so long ago – or was it only yesterday?”
“Jackson Pollock’s ‘all-over’ paintings of 1947 to 1950 aren’t easy to understand. Even Clement Greenberg found them challenging, while the painter himself didn’t really fully recover from what he had achieved in those years.Because of these paintings Pollock’s place in art history is assured, but that place is easier to pass through on the way to somewhere else than to visit. His work fits into both the formalist and conceptualist canons, and his avant-gardist credentials are taken for granted. But precisely because his contribution is located where all the competing artistic narratives intersect, including the one connected to performance art, the work itself seems oddly neglected.“
“In the sun lounge on the thirtieth floor of Clifford Chance, the view through the plate glass windows over the Isle of Dogs was aeroplane high. Sun streamed into seating areas and small side rooms connected by vastly long corridors in a space designed for business gatherings. A grand piano, a dining room with crystal decanters, a kitchen at the centre of the floor where staff were beginning to prepare the canapés for this evening’s function; this was the setting for a stately retrospective of Gary Wragg’s paintings. His large works take the viewer round all four sides of the building processionally. The sheer square footage at play has allowed Wragg to get a large number of his huge paintings together in one space. We get a sense of his development, and the changes his work has gone through.”