Artists: David Ainley, Katrina Blannin, Lauri Hopkins, Luke Frost, Andrew Parkinson, Dan Roach, Trevor Sutton
Hearing that this show was being put together, there was a flickering thought that it might be treading a rather well worn path, circuitous of a particular kind of abstract painting: A kind of painting perhaps doggedly holding to a tried and tired aesthetic whilst attempting still to convince of some fresh ground. Seeing the show, this flicker was quickly extinguished by the breath of fresh air delivered by this rather stunning collection of paintings. Manley has selected here a group of works that sing (not politely) from the walls of a rather makeshift exhibition space, set in a midlands based studios with a strong industrial heritage. The show is none the worse for this, and the notion of a work ethic is neither absent from the location nor from the paintings on display.
The idea of discipline in painting opens a dialogue about how things are made and how things appear. Methods, processes and aesthetic values: The artists here are clearly driven not only by their own particularity in how they make paintings, but also in their idiosyncratic approach to a kind of geometry.
What is really striking about this show is the way that these works individually and collectively open up, rather than close down. One might, as I had, lazily, make an assumption that this show would embody a language of tightly nailed down precision and claustrophobic space. On the contrary, there is optimistic playfulness (particularly in the works of Hopkins and Parkinson), blindingly opulent colour (in works by Luke Frost) and colour so considered that it almost resists naming (Ainley and Sutton). There are resonant surfaces and marriages of form that require time, and more time to unfold. There is also seriousness, throughout.
Do not be misled, however, as all of the works in this show do demonstrate precision, some with greater elegance in their methods and outcome than others. Ainley’s paintings sit robustly in this company, delivering an unflinchingly rich approach to making. The coarse granularity of surface bubbling beneath the zesty tautness and elegant differentiation of colour in Blannin’s work seems to unlock onto a further sensory plain. Whilst Dan Roach’s smallest offering here is so brimming with desire that one would happily sneak away with it for some private time. ‘Rue Jacob’ by Trevor Sutton, hung like an anchor piece on the end wall of the exhibition, transforms something inherently ornamental into something of quite monumental value. If none other in the show were to revitalise one’s optimism about making paintings, the desire to keep looking and the exquisite character of ‘picture making’ on show here, this does.
The Discipline of Painting, curated by David Manley, part of the Harrington Mill Studios Exhibition Programme, 2013, 6th – 27th of October