Comments on: The Conspiracy Theory Series: a note on the Kinblethmont show Abstract Critical is a not-for profit company aiming to establish a new critical context for all generations of artists involved with ambitious abstract art. Sun, 09 Nov 2014 17:23:33 +0000 hourly 1 By: Robert Linsley Fri, 06 Sep 2013 02:09:33 +0000 Now that you mention it, a lot of what you say about space strongly recalls Stella’s words in Working Space, though he wouldn’t say the same things today. I suspect that he discovered something which I also discovered, and which I’ve recently found confirmed in Anton Ehrenzweig’s now thirty-five year old book, The Hidden Order of Art (a forthcoming review will be my last commissioned piece for abcrit) – namely that it doesn’t do any good to talk about the space you want to see in pictures. Ehrenzweig feels that great art is recognized precisely because it gives a vivid impression of space, yet that space can’t be planned or constructed. It’s a by product or a secondary effect of a more fundamental process. I find that convincing because I’ve noticed that if I try to contrive a space the resulting picture is always bad. It either happens or it doesn’t, and I’ll extend that to say that whatever kind of space is possible today will happen today and no one can dictate what kind of space should be made, or will be made. We, meaning the collectivity of painters, at this point in history, have to work with a strong sense of surface, and that’s how we get vivid spatial sensations. But having said all that, especially on this web site, I’ll do some second guessing myself and say – don’t ask me to define or explain anything about pictorial space, because I don’t have a clue. I only know it when I see it, and I love it when I get it in my work, but I don’t know how. Well, not quite true – but let’s say I know no consistent method.

I share your dislike of atmospheric effects in painting, usually brought about by fuzzy edges and indistinct forms.

About the relative success or failure of Stella’s work, you might be right, but what matters most to me is that he has a knack for making work that’s hard to take at first. It’s dissonant. It needs time to be really seen. Violent negative reactions are a good sign in his case. And that is wholly admirable.

By: Robin Greenwood Thu, 05 Sep 2013 14:49:58 +0000 I guess you don’t agree about the bottom of ‘Leap-frogging Reds and Greens’ then! Oh well…

I agree with a lot of what you say here, especially the business of reconciling/simultaneity of three-dimensions in two. But aren’t you making it a little easy for yourself if you insist upon a frontal planarity right from the off? You can’t reconcile what you haven’t got to begin with. I’m also not sure about what you are actually saying about Rembrandt and Cezanne – that they too are totally planar? How deep is ‘Bend in the Road’? As flat as a painting and as deep as a bend in the road. Didn’t Cezanne often choose these very three-dimensional motifs in order to set up just such a tension/reconciliation?
I’m far from wanting to play Moore to your Heron, or go back to Cezanne (if back it would be), and your advice to ‘put up or shut up’ is probably wise, given the number of people jumping on my head at the moment. Since I’m immersed in sculpture at present, I’m going to shut up. (Loud cheers)

By: Alan Gouk Thu, 05 Sep 2013 10:56:46 +0000 Robin appears to have a bee in his bonnet that no amount of friendly advice can assuage. It is true that since the Matisse/ Picasso Exhibition at Tate Modern in 2002, my pictures have become more insistent in their declaration of frontally and, hopefully, the taut continuum of the two-dimensional surface, though that is for others to decide. But that is because I recognised the superiority of The Moroccans and Piano Lesson 1, to everything else in the show apart from Picasso’s 1907-08 pro to-cubist and African influenced works.
It has little or nothing to do with the formulations of Clement Greenberg with which I have had a disputational relationship ever since I took up a pen over forty years ago. The whole tenor of my writing has been not to elide painting with sculpture, but to separate out the qualities that ar ” proper ti sculpture” ,constantly to support the aspiration of my sculptor friends for an authentic three-dimensionality with the corollary that sculptural illusionism (for that is what it would be) is improper to painting unless realised through the space-making properties of colour-tone colour- and not by building into depth in the old way, the figurative way. ” Volume is begotten of flatness, not of modelled illusionistic rotundities” ( P. Heron) is as true of Rembrandt’s Conspiracy of Julius Civilis 1661 Stockholm, as it is of Cezanne, who is not nearly as three-dimensional as Robin would like him to be. This is the old argument Heron had with Henry Moore. How deep is the space in the Bridge at Maincy 1879-80 ( Musee D’ Orsay ) or Turning Road ( Boston) 18881 . ITs the simultaneity of 2D and 3 D illusion that makes Cezanne classic, and figurative. Planarity is of the essence of painting, but not of sculpture. This is yet another paradox of Greenberg’s writing He wants each of the arts to be self-defining, except for sculpture , which is free to plunder painting outrageously.
What was a matter of great moment for Cezanne, here, now, well over a century later with the radical changes inaugurated by the key modernists no longer seems to me to open up possibilities of expression for painting. We have to deal with the cards we are dealt As Heron also said –There is a whole world out there to be explored , in the direction of colour and in no other direction.
I have had to keep stressing how different my pictures are from one another, which seems to me obvious, ( see Bronze-winged Jacana and Deep Vinaigrish Bottle green) from this year, or Rock-pool Spin-off. So the use of the word “format” in discussing them seems to me thoroughly inappropriate, and inaccurate. ” Format” is a word best applied to those pictures which repeat the same design over and over with variations only in proportion and colour arrangement. My pictures are more diverse the more of them you see. If the assertion of planarity is ” format”, then I’m a flying dutchman.
“Back to Cezanne” won’t wash. We’ve been there too many times before. Robin doesn’t seem to realise, though I’ve told him often enough, that hankering after plunging depth a la Tintoretto is inescapably representational in implication, as are all his favourite examples, and incompatible with the aims of abstraction. I’d say ” Put up or shut up”, but I wouldn’t want Robin to wate valuable energy on a white elephant.

By: Robin Greenwood Wed, 04 Sep 2013 18:31:50 +0000 I haven’t seen Pete Hoida’s work for some time, and wouldn’t like to comment on the new work. In principle I would have to say that I’m often dubious about ‘atmospheric’ depth and I tend not to like that kind of engendering of space much even in figurative painting – but I wouldn’t make a rule out of that if a painting works.

But Alan seems to be talking about an ‘atmosphere’ out in front of the painting, though even he seems unsure whether what he calls ‘presentness’ is a reality for abstract painting:

‘The big question about “presentness” is whether it is founded on objective fact, or a delusion of the observing subject’.

By: Noela Wed, 04 Sep 2013 15:17:35 +0000 Robin , I have just re read Alan Gouk’s comments on gradation of colour giving atmospheric depth, in regard to Pete Hoida’s work in particular, which seem to be very pertinent in addressing spacial qualities in abstract work.
I was wondering what you think of Pete Hoida’s work especially since Alan Gouk seems to greatly admire it.

By: Robin Greenwood Wed, 04 Sep 2013 15:05:54 +0000 I’m just waiting for Robert L. to jump in on this (come on Robert) and tell us that Frank Stella has done all this – deep space, shallow space, sticking out forwards into the room…

So in order to second-guess him completely I’m going to requote this favorite bit of Heron writing:
‘Penetrating across the river, and over and across and through the meadows opposite, Constable’s eye proved over and over again to be the most accurate eye in the history of painting for recording recession. Yet always the deep distances and horizons are perfectly accommodated to the picture surface. Never in Constable was profound spatial accuracy disruptive of the most delectably organised surface-design.’

It’s that last bit, the reconciliation of three-dimensions with two, that Stella can’t get. Without it, he’s just literally jumping about, backwards and forwards, in ‘illustrations’ of space.

By: Robin Greenwood Wed, 04 Sep 2013 14:00:17 +0000 Noela,
Of course it is true that there is great enjoyment and pleasure in both looking at and making abstract painting of all sorts of different kinds, and I have no wish to diminish or restrict that. I think my clumsily expressed ‘disquiet’ about abstract painting stems from what I see as its inherent difficulty at the moment in extending the discipline into really new territory that has some kind of original ‘spatiality’ to it. Not everyone feels this way, or thinks that this is important, but I do. Maybe Gouk’s ideas suggest a way forward…?

By contrast, I feel that abstract sculpture has a huge amount of new territory recently opened up before it – I think this current batch of Brancaster Chronicles will demonstrate this beyond doubt – over and above what could be done in figurative sculpture. That feels really exciting. But I don’t have the same feeling about painting; as I have suggested, abstract painting feels more like a closing down of some of the spatial possibilities of the best figurative painting, or at best an oblique reiteration of them.

By: Noela Wed, 04 Sep 2013 11:48:15 +0000 I am referring to Robin Greenwood’s comments .

By: Noela Wed, 04 Sep 2013 11:46:40 +0000 You seem to be allowing the possible limitations of painting something completely abstract get in the way of the immense enjoyment [for want of a better word] one can get from the act of painting. When you say you are slightly relieved to be a sculptor is it because you enjoy and prefer working in that dimension or is it just due to the fact that it is the only way you feel you can create something really abstract?
If you really enjoy painting but stop yourself because your abstract principles aren’t fulfilled , that seems a shame.
A painting that comes forwards and out at you can be a fine thing. I feel an abstract work that works can be more engaging on some levels , should ‘speak’ out off the wall. Figurative work in a way operates more within itself if you understand what I mean. there may not be many earth shattering changes in abstract work, but there are always small differences.

By: jenny meehan Tue, 03 Sep 2013 19:43:46 +0000 I’ve just written quite an extensive answer, and promptly lost it because I closed the tabs without meaning to! (This may be a blessing!) Briefly…

Like idea of painting coming out forwards…(and sideways!)
In “Upper Room” I played with space, see this, (painting to the right of the home page)… The neat pure cobalt pigment (no filler at all, just pigment and acrylic binder) really does hit you in the eye when you see the work in the flesh! It has punch. Gave me a bruise last time I looked at it!

Perspective, yes, relates to external space, and also to emotion in an emblematic kind of way I think (ie radiation/concentration).

When I visit galleries I nearly always find the sculpture more interesting and exciting than the painting. Maybe this is partly because of the greater impact of the tensions in space which it creates?

I wish I was a sculptor sometimes, but I am just crazy about paint; just can’t leave it alone! This space in painting matter is interesting though, will explore for sure.