A New Abstraction Emerges in Edinburgh

In “ABJAD,” the latest exhibition at Edinburgh’s Ingleby Gallery, UK-based artists Jane Bustin, Kevin Harman, Paul Keir and Jeff McMillan explore the frontiers of abstraction through innovative works that push past contemporary conventions. Each artist approaches the concept of the “abstract” from different angles, creating a tension between art critic Clement Greenberg’s concept of modernist “purity” and the reality of contemporary art-making.

Continuing the explorations of minimalist artists such as Sol Lewitt and Ellsworth Kelly, Paul Keir and Jeff McMillan pare down the painted form to its base elements. Working on a small scale and a limited color palette, McMillan addresses  ideas of balance and rhythm in  innovative compositions such as Demonstration Painting (No. 2) (2013)—an off-kilter composition framed by blocks of color encroaching on the picture plane. Taking cues from Lewitt, Keir often applies paint directly to surrounding architecture, or, like McMillan, works on  a smaller scale to investigate systems of serialized repetition.

Jane Bustin and Kevin Harman present pieces with a more postmodern take on the potential of the abstract by experimenting with nontraditional materials and processes that embrace the complexities of material, physicality, and exhibition techniques. Bustin’s vibrant, wall-hung sculptures pull both traditional and unconventional materials into works that abstractly reference domestic space. Christina the Astonishing VI (2014) employs acrylic on wood with copper and shares qualities with a wall-hung mirror; Tabitha Silk (2013) alludes to the drape of fabric with a single undulating line. Transitioning the domestic sphere away from the feminine to the masculine, sculptor and performance artist Harman works with household paint inside double-glazing units, creating process-based paintings that owe their lustrous finishing to the qualities of their everyday materials.

Toeing the line between painting and sculpture, each artist in “ABJAD” creates works that reject depiction but still refer either to cultural forms, the process of their making, or their place within the continuum of art-making, while engaging in a dialogue that extends beyond the boundaries of abstraction.

—K. Sundberg

ABJAD” is on view at Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh, Jan. 24–Mar. 21, 2015.

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