A world of uncertainty and brewing chaos gives birth to an explosion of colour and lightness of form, as if the truth of art is to confront the harsh realities of life with beauty. Abstract painting is so much more than cold, clean lines and obscure formations that hint at forever hidden meanings. It is the purest expression of art’s inner purpose – to beautify and compound layers of meaning to an existence which seems brutal and confusing. By extension, abstract art expresses the artist’s inner being – a private world of thought, emotion, action and desire, made public by the act of painting. And so Between Structure and Disorder brings together three painters who explore the materiality, form and limits of paint itself. The works in this exhibition oscillate between clean geometric abstraction, fluid organic form, and painstaking deconstruction of painterly form.
The gallery swells with a glorious celebration of the variety, ingenuity and energy of abstract painting. In great gestures of profound consideration, Matt Mignanelli explores the intersections between light, structure and the materiality of paint, capturing the energy of motion in the painter’s hand, resulting in canvases that are at once saturated masses of colour and intricately detailed. The world, in these paintings, becomes a cacophony of vitality, sprawling, slipping, sliding around, engulfing the viewer in a tranquil wave of absolution. Mignanelli’s work is playful and controlled in the way it adheres to traditional tropes of abstraction at the same time as giving way, with ever increasing intimacy, to the materiality of paint in the form of drips and splashes. In these works, disorder is born out of the process of creating structure.
In a world where technology, politics and social identities seem fluid, abstraction can bring order without losing any of nuance or flavour of our individual experiences. Richard Schur seems to eschew all hint of chance and chaos in his pristine, sublime geometric forms. Incandescent contrasts of colour, between dark and vibrant, bring to life a controlled sense of joy in the purity of abstraction. Timeless as geometry itself, this brand of abstract painting is clean, good looking and a calming spirit in an age where art, like anything else, feels compelled to speak, to mean something. In all the disorder of the current age, abstract painting remains silent, brooding, dependable in its commitment to order. Schur here presents a series of sculptural paintings, where the hanging of the works mirrors the abstract forms they present, giving physical structure to the concept. It is an oasis of much-needed calm in the deafening noise of contemporary life.
Just as our daily experience seems regimented by routine and predictability, abstraction follows rules, but as we ourselves experience in the minute details of our lives, so subject to chance, there is a simmering fluidity that speckles the routine. Russell Tyler straddles the gap between structure and disorder by taking a playful, yet method-based approach to abstract painting. Although his free-flowing forms seem to insinuate nature – ponds, trees, weeds – they never veer into representation, but rather retain the air of an altogether more graphic style. These bold, fluid abstractions walk a line between freedom and constraint, as if a metaphor for our own delicate liberty: Tyler is methodically limited by the uniform size of the canvases, although varies whether they are painted horizontally or vertically, and limits his impasto, sweeping forms to five or so colours. Here the disorder overpowers structure not physically but emotionally – the expressive content of these paintings cancel out the seemingly rigid structures from which they are born. Just as in life, in art it is the fuzzy, uncertain moments of human drama that create the colour and motion or it all, wherever it is headed.
Arriving at the same destination from radically disparate paths, Mignanelli, Shur and Tyler take abstraction to its logical conclusion, which is to investigate the necessary relationship between order and chaos, structure and disorder. Art, by its very nature, navigates a winding path through structure and disorder: on the one hand, the artwork is always already structured by the artist’s decisions in the process of making, but on the other hand, it is subjected to the earthly disorder of entropy, memory and expression. The artist is, after all, only ever attempting to bring order to the chaos of existence.