Abstract Critical

John Golding: Working Space / Space Through Light

B VI 1971, acrylic on canvas, 213 x 457 cm. Courtesy of Annely Juda Fine Art, London.

John Golding: Working Space in on at Annely Juda from the 6 September to the 6 October. abstract critical aims to review the exhibition. In the meantime here is quotation from a review by Golding of Frank Stella’s Charles Eliot Norton lectures which were published under the title of Working Space.  It is of course unlikely that Golding, who seems to have suggested the title to the gallery before his death earlier this year, wanted to consciously reference Stella. However in his review of Stella’s lectures, specifically in his posing of an alternative to the sort of approach to abstract art which Stella proposes in Working Space, Golding provides a telling, even beautiful description of own painting, and the lineage he sees it in. An extract of Stella’s Working Space has already been posted on abstract critical, here.

A II 1971, acrylic on canvas, 213 x 305 cm. Image courtesy Annely Juda Fine Art, London.

Space Through Light

“Like Stella, I believe that most of the greatest art produced in the past forty years has been in the field of abstraction. And also I believe that much of the painting of the past two or three decades – representational as well as abstract – has ignored the fact that space is one of the richest and most emotive properties of pictorial art. But I believe there is an alternative space to the baroque, swinging, muscular space that Stella proposes, a space that works on us more slowly but which can be just as all-enveloping. This is the space created by light – light that binds and separates objects, planes and shapes, that illuminates and spreads, and that can act upon our perceptions and our senses as powerfully if not as physically as the visceral space in which Stella delights. Space through light is there in Giotto and in much Italian Renaissance painting. It found fulfillment in much Venetian sixteenth-century art, and supremely in the late work of Bellini. It informs some of Rembrandt, much of Velázquez. It is to be found in the work of Claude and of Poussin (an artist on whom  Stella is particularly hard). Turner was one of its greatest exponents. It was an ingredient in much nineteenth-century landscape painting and found redefinition in the late work of Monet and Cézanne. Space and light go hand in hand in the most crystalline of Braque’s Cubist canvases and they were welded together into the metaphysics of his late paintings. For Miró (most expansive of artists) colour, light and space were at times synonymous. The space of light was Rothko’s space; it is present in the Pollock of, for example, Lavender Mist; and it is what makes de Kooning’s latest manner so elegiac and moving. I recognize, however, that Stella would perhaps find this space too slow, too conservative, too conditioned by the format which contains it, in his own words too ‘boxy’.”

John Golding, ‘Frank Stella’s Working Space’, in John Golding, Visions of the Modern, Thames and Hudson, 1994, p. 332

  1. Ashley West said…

    I empathise strongly with what Golding was saying. I think Stella’s earlier paintings had that expansiveness, though in a different way perhaps. The constructions have always seemed virtuosic, but never really touched me. In present painting I find a significant distinction between, for example, Danny Rolph’s recent ‘swash-buckling’ work and his earlier works with layers of twin-wall etc.(I think it’s called that), which are much more contemplative while still retaining complexity. I wonder if it’s the difference between something unifying and something more ‘entropic’. Of course Sean Scully and Robert Hughes had a lot to say about ‘slow art’. I wonder why Diebenkorn always seems to be left out? He certainly could have been in that list. Look out for a forthcoming article on him.