How best to enter into a Michael Gromm painting? Perhaps via a fluid trail of bright canary yellow as it bleeds into a pool of aubergine blackness. Or, by following the seam of cool blue that tumbles headlong toward a cluster of brightly coloured geometric fragments. Try gliding over the sheets of soft candy striping, as they ricochet, shield and confuse any sense of distance, depth or gravitational direction.
Charged with a kind of enlivened optimism, a happy dance between artist and paint appears to be in motion. Each canvas acts like a platform, a theatrical stage upon which the paint itself is allowed to perform freely. Forms are found and wiped away, shapes are defined and broken apart, rhythms are discovered and de-constructed – everything is tending toward expansion. With the artist as choreographer, overseeing but not stifling the paints own desire for action, Gromm’s images evoke haptic sensations as much as they offer an experience of the visually pleasurable.
These masses of coalescent colour read like wild dreamlike landscapes, great maelstroms of energy, space and flux. It’s impossible to determine the order in which each layer has been set down; every stroke, sweep and pour appears to weave through a multiplicity of planes, each recording a unique sequence of discrete gestures. Within the large folds and watery spills, small painterly shards nestle like abandoned confetti, or the whispered syntax of a private thought.
Having lured us into his abstract dance-floor, Gromm now confronts us with the starkly familiar, the recognisable and incongruous. Tribesmen, rodeo riders, dancers with flailing limbs and even an orang-utan have been slotted into the fray. We are left scrambling, trying to come to terms with these nameable, hyper-real, tightly painted elements set loose in a scene of pure abstraction. This curious juxtaposition of visual languages, this marriage of the random and the controlled, the known and the unknown, points toward the often contradictory nature of the lived experience. The deliberate depiction of bodies in motion allows for a meditation on the dynamic flow of life, of how joy, liberation and excitement manifest in and through the corporal.
Gromm’s relationship to his medium speaks of an open two-way process of making and unmaking, of the physical actions of painting and the emotional impacts of looking. These are tremendously flamboyant images, loud and brash in their exuberance. However, paired with the somewhat allegorical, nonsensical titles he bestows upon each one, they also speak of the absurd and superfluous acts, decisions and spontaneities that drive much of our human endeavour. Gromm is pulling our gaze into a strange world of reverie. The generous space and rhythmic charge within each work demands closer looking, and at once both supports and unhinges our sense of perception. Engaging with one of these luminous paintings makes for a totally giddy, disorientating rollick.
Phe Luxford 2016