Currently on at Fold Gallery is As Wide As A Door Is Open, an exhibition I’ve curated along with Kim Savage, the gallerist. The exhibition mixes generations. There is not a single message, more a hunch that if abstract art is to re-appear as a real force in contemporary art it would need to be diverse and excitingly visual, that its engagement with the past of modernist abstraction should be both direct (not dominated by pastiche) and somehow wayward. Above all I think that the strangeness of abstraction needs to be recovered – something which can only happen through the art itself, not through written argument. Of course people will disagree as to the extent each of the artists in the exhibition match-up to these slightly lofty goals. The rest of this text is the exhibition press-release…
At its richest abstract art involves the simultaneous discovery and creation of new visual worlds, territories that provoke an obscure recognition but ultimately remain unknowable, enigmatic. Picking up on hints hidden in the accumulated conventions of the strange class of objects we call pictures, the early abstract artists began this exploration. The five artists in As Wide As A Door Is Open extend it, each developing personal formal languages which go beyond form.
Abstract art needs its own newly found reality, or at least a vivid sense of unreality. Dominic Beattie, Stephen Buckley, John Bunker, EC and Christopher McSherry do not share a single approach to achieving this, beyond a desire to anchor their illusions of space and structure as tangible physical presences.
John Bunker and EC employ collage with the excitement of gestural abstraction. EC’s have the urgency and fragility of an intense personal communication; a sense of claustrophobia is lightened with moments of freedom or release. Bunker is more directly concerned with pleasure – his energies are precisely controlled, and his richly-coloured spaces shift from the fluid to the fractured. Stephen Buckley, Christopher McSherry and Dominic Beattie emphasise their images’ status as objects. Buckley builds his canvases methodically, slowly layering piece on piece, part on part. The overall effect is hypnotic in its melding of a cryptic withholding of meaning with decorative pattern and a sly wit. Sharing some of Buckley’s attraction to pattern, Beattie works faster, cutting and cropping his geometries before splicing them back together again – his painting are punchy and immediate. McSherry’s acrylic tablets belie the material’s unprepossessing qualities, and combine elegant contours with surprisingly delicate colour.
The images in As Wide As A Door Is Open are to be understood instinctively, whether this comes with a jolt or a slowly dawning realisation. To understand them verbally is to not understand them at all.
As Wide As A Door Is Open: Material Images is on at Fold Gallery until the 11th of October.