Words and language as both subject and medium form the backbone of Mel Bochner’s practice. In recent years, his oeuvre has developed in tandem with a painterly practice that investigates the interrelation of form and meaning in the visual manifestation of language. In Money, the artist delivers a colourful plethora of synonyms for the word, concluding with the damning indictment, ‘root of all evil’.
I asked people if I could film and photograph them wearing an afro wig. At the time, I was making a series of hair objects and sourced material from Afro-Caribbean hair shops in London but most of them didn’t sell afro wigs. One day, I was walking past a fancy-dress shop and saw that they had a lot of afro wigs in lots of different colours for sale and I realised that they’re used for parody. Immediately, there’s a connection with clowns and minstrels: as signifiers of the African body, the afro became a trigger for hilarity and mockery. So, I put out an open call to photograph and film people putting one on [The Audition, 1997]’
– Sonia Boyce, quoted in Jennifer Higgie, ‘Sonia Boyce: 30 Years of Art and Activism’, Frieze, Issue 196, June - August 2018.
Angela Bulloch’s wide-reaching practice spans an array of media and methods that manifest her interest in systems, patterns and rules, and the creative territory between mathematics and aesthetics. Central to her oeuvre are the ‘pixel boxes’. Working in copper, Bulloch underlines the relationship between her pixel boxes and the Minimalist structures of Donald Judd, Dan Flavin and Carl Andre, both conceptually and materially. The softly changing and pulsing colour patterns in these works are fully abstract, based on mathematical algorhythmic programmes written by the artist herself.
George Condo’s career-long investigation into Cubism and its formal possibilities has resulted in a unique approach to the portrait genre based upon the artist’s own brand of ‘psychological cubism’. While his imaginative visual language pays tribute to a vast array of art-historical traditions and genres, In the Brothel demonstrates a deep investment in the work of his personal hero, Pablo Picasso. To the left hand side of the canvas is Rodrigo, by turns a butler, a Parisian brothel owner and gambler, and the most recognisable character in Condo’s cast of undesirables.
In a new series of paintings, Dalwood looks nearly four decades into the future, to the year 2059. In spite of this nominative forward-looking approach, the artist resumes his longstanding commitment to the construction and interpretation of art history, employing compositional references in 2059 (portal) to both Jean-Siméon Chardin’s The House of Cards and Cezanne’s The Card Players. Appearing throughout the series is a circular motif that indicates the circularity of existence and which materialises here as a classical still life fruit bowl.
Hans Hartung’s experimental visual language established him as a leader in the field of 20th century abstraction and has had a profound influence over subsequent generations of artists, in particular proving inspirational to the trajectory of American lyrical abstraction in the 1960s and 1970s. Concerned with the translation of the inexpressible onto canvas, Hartung’s emotional abstractions eliminated all figurative elements, pursuing a foundational freedom of gesture and spatial dynamism.
In Rachel Howard’s abstract paintings chaos and control work in tandem. With a practice that is fundamentally concerned with the palpable sensation of contradiction, she manipulates the notion of painting – interrogating the medium, encouraging it to behave in unexpected and experimental ways. To create her lined paintings the artist builds up a structure, similar to a grid or a mesh of paint, only to unravel its foundations using varnish and turpentine. Determined by a combination of the weight and viscosity of the paint, the form of the painting relies upon precision and chance, as in Slip Slide Curl Lick where curlicues of pigment evoke a myriad of organic forms.
In Alex Hubbard’s paintings, fields of colour in fiberglass and resin are interrupted with richly pooled, dripped and poured paint. Working with fast-drying materials, the artist is forced to act quickly, embracing chance happenings and revelling in the autonomy of his chosen media. The artist’s latest process involves UV printing technology that unites the languages of abstraction and figuration in a single canvas via underlying prints of machinery and everyday items.
In her paintings, Valentina Liernur focuses on the representation of female figures in everyday scenarios. Her observations are based on photographs of friends, family and strangers taken in various settings including domestic spaces, public transport and city streets. She often takes her photographs surreptitiously, resulting in works that capture fleeting moments that have an abrupt, confrontational and, at times, voyeuristic dynamic.
In Wiliam Mackinnon’s ‘psychological landscape’ paintings he combines the real and the imaginary to transform everyday experiences from the mundane to an enigmatic other. As in Trouble in paradise, roads are recurring motifs in Mackinnon’s work, dominating scenes constructed from memory and materialising into the artist’s reflections on culture, heritage and family legacies. Cracks in the road, potholes and signposts become stand ins for tumultuous emotional states in which thoughts of trauma, pain, loss and longing are positioned alongside feelings of regrowth and reinvention.
France-Lise McGurn’s atmospheric practice transports the viewer into the most personal quarters of the artist’s life: her studio, her bedroom, her mind and musings. The figures that occupy McGurn’s world belong entirely to her imagination. Portrayed in various stages of undress, their impassive features belie the euphoria of their composition. McGurn’s free-flowing, expressive gestures escape the boundaries of the traditional picture plane, bestowing a further sense of weightlessness to her dream-like aesthetic.
In her realist paintings Paulina Olowska borrows imagery from Eastern European and American popular culture in the pursuit of elucidating the meaning of womanhood. Demonstrating the disjunction of time and cultural impermeability of Eastern Europe her works marry socialist symbolism with Western consumerism. Vali, The Witch of Positano alludes to the avant-garde spiritual guru Vali Myers and the film about her life, ‘The Witch of Positano’ (1965), as well as to the magical powers that define the roles of Samantha Robinson in ‘The Love Witch’ (2016) and Valerie Leon in ‘Blood from the Mummy's Tomb’ (1971).
Parmiggiani's practice demonstrates a profound interest in our artistic, historical and moral past. Deeply personal meditations on life and death, the power of reflection and feelings of the sacred are realised in concrete objects, photographic and painted images, and in his signature ‘Delocazione’. Inaugurated in 1970, these haunting works use powder, soot and fire to create shadows and imprints on paper and board, resulting in a sense of absence while at the same time making manifest an unmistakable human presence, tangible, yet not corporeal.
Georg Karl Pfahler rose to prominence in the early 1960s as one of the first hard-edge painters in Europe, known for his vibrant and colourful works. During this period, his innovative abstract painting style featured geometric forms on crisp monotone backgrounds that focused on the dynamic between shapes and examined the deeper relationships between space and pure colour. ‘Colour has a value of its own’, he wrote in 1968, ‘colour is weight, colour is quality, colour possesses an inherent limitation, of itself, through itself, through other colours, colour creates space, colour is form and space’.
In Lacquer, clips and stack Erin Shirreff transforms the two-dimensional medium of photography into a vertiginous, sculptural composition, gently guiding the viewer’s gaze down the length of the work’s curvilinear arc, which shifts fluidly from image to object. Raising questions about the experience of three-dimensional sculptural form in an age of digital dissemination, Shirreff invites the viewer to decelerate the process of observation, exposing the slippage between an object in real space and its mediation in two dimensions.
The paintings of Clare Woods are essentially concerned with sculpting an image in paint, and expressing the strangeness of an object. Originally trained as a sculptor, much of Woods’ work is an exploration of physical form. This understanding of sculptural language and a preoccupation with forms in space, translated into two-dimensional images, underpins her pictorial practice.
In his practice, Christopher Wool breaks order through repetition and layering; recurring motifs and the reproduction of errors suggest the breakdown of pre-existing structures. Reductions and erasures exist alongside slips and misalignments, manifesting a tension between depth and flatness.