‘The Shape of Things’ examines the artistic practice of geometric abstraction in a contemporary context. Non-objective geometric exploration has a deep-rooted art historical, scientific and spiritual background. This is an examination of forms, shapes and patterns that delves into universal truths and investigates the plasticity of two-dimensional painting. This is a pared down art; controlled, refined and elemental.
Katrina Blannin’s work yields the diagrammatic; a ‘mosaic’ of tessellated triangular forms and hexads. Katrina’s exploration of symmetry, sequences and the possible disruptions of asymmetry create delicate and subtle pieces with a focus on tonal nuances and soft, pleasing colour fields.
Blannin applies glazes to her panels in multi layers or with thinner washes. The colour of the under-painting and the grainy texture of the linen are revealed to create a dual tonal effect of exquisite and gentle contrasts. Central fluorescent lines dramatically highlight the patterns and sequences seen in triptychs such as ‘The Supremes’. With varying forms of constriction and expansion, they make a visual play on the unavoidable neon interruptions of everyday cosmopolitan life.
Selma Parlour is fascinated by the pictorial and framing qualities of surface, flatness and transparency. She integrates these formal properties to achieve a ‘trompe l’oeil’ illusion. Parlour works with geometric arrangements in a delicate, and, at times, translucent application. This is achieved through the removal of the oil binder in the paint, allowing the colour texture to achieve a quality that is parched, like a chalk pastel.
Parlour’s work is soft, and its process serene. The meticulous creation of the colour planes produces a pattern that is highly compelling; pieces in a delightfully glowing colour palette that radiate an internal light.
Jane Bustin’s constructed panels evoke a natural balance and harmony of composition. Bustin juxtaposes linear wooden planes and copper plates to create a significant sense of geometry, scale and dimension. Offset by blocks of colour, the works are visual constructs, their shape and space reminiscent of modernist architecture within the formal constraints of abstraction.
Bustin’s influences draw from far and wide. The nature of her work is paint laid next to paint and colour next to texture. The effect is reminiscent of the stark style of contrasting forms in 15th century Dutch painting, yet the colour palette cites cosmetics, sweet wrappers and neon signs in a way that subtly blends historical inspirations with those of the contemporary.
Tim Ellis uses strong, gendered symbols to create iconic works, mimicking flags and banners with a totemic value. Ellis paints on glazed bed linen that lends the work a certain domesticity, and the folds and scuffs a utilitarian antiquity. The source material nods to Art Deco motifs with a sense of advertisement design, displayed using distressed acid bathed bulldog clips.
Ellis’ sculptures climb and spiral into space, wanting to belong to one another and yet so obviously of different origins with a readymade quality. The grouping and intertwining of shapes and symbols create an abstract artifice that reflects Ellis’ concern in the manufacture, use and display of cultural products and designs.
‘The Shape of Things’ examines the optical effects surrounding geometric patterning. Pioneers of this style include prominent members of the 20th century avant-garde - Wassily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian. The latter created universally iconic and visually powerful compositions of primary colours and black grids against a white background, similarities to which can be seen and explored in this group exhibition. Geometric abstraction has found a diverse affinity with the sacred, both in its aniconic representational purpose in Islamic art and in the transcendent, non-objective, severe forms of the Suprematist movement, which its founder, Malevich, based upon the power of ‘pure artistic feeling’.
In this fast-paced age of advertising and design, strong, powerful symbols are a necessary component. Interest in geometric abstraction is reborn and reflected in contemporary art and the everyday. We are saturated, daily, with typographical shapes and emblems, from Microsoft’s coloured window grid to the poignant black squares of the BBC logo, demonstrating the visual power associated with the cult of geometric representation.
The contemporary artists represented in ‘The Shape of Things’ use geometric abstraction as a common starting point, yet their work offers an exciting, diverse and exceptionally pleasing representation of the style.