In 1969 Harald Szeemann organised the seminal exhibition When Attitudes Become Form. An installation shot shows a loose agglomeration of unlikely looking materials, rope, chicken wire, skeins of latex, lying on the floor, slumped against the wall or strung between floor and ceiling. Szeemann wanted to show how attitude and creative processes were more relevant than the shallow surfaces and safe formalism of mid-20th century modernism. The works on show described ideas about time and space, absence and presence and the articulation of the body.
In the current exhibition, however, Danny Rolph has reversed Szeemann’s terms to show how attitude and process are infiltrating the once sterile realm of abstract painting. The cohesive element here is the way in which forms can be manipulated to express the position or world view of each artist, proving the enduring relevance of modernism and abstraction, and its flexibility in absorbing the terms of the new.
Danny Rolph’s own work has a twisted relationship to modernism and abstraction. His painting is not an ironical take on earlier abstraction nor is it a detached pastiche. It demonstrates a close involvement with the tenets of modernism, but with the investment of a new intuitive spirit based on real experiences which shapes the formal construction of his paintings. Danny’s improvised compositions derive from the visual influences of growing up in the 20th century: the flat brightness and glaring colours of computer games, graphics, signage, packaging, vernacular architecture, kids’ clothes. The formal elements of his paintings are shaped by multiple impressions layered and juxtaposed, emblematic of a fast paced excess of visual information processed and proved irrational and disjointed.
Formally Phillip Allen’s paintings are contradictory. Thick impastoed gobbets and rosettes of paint bracket the interior of the canvas characterized by thin washes of colour. Equally, the relief-like effect of the peripheral blobs have an aggressive quality, as they protrude into the viewer’s space, whereas the central areas are pictorial and illusionistic, with a dazzling, almost hypnotic effect. Painterly processes and the viscosity of paint are at stake here, yet the titles tell us that each work is clearly meant to be of something: an entity is being represented. Allen’s work projects an uncompromising loyalty to both the formal, material tenets of modernism while at the same time relishing the painter’s desire to depict. Working within this paradox creates a playful atmosphere, a sort of glee shines out of the acidic colours and radiant beams of light. The globules of paint are more than tactile; they look edible, although somewhat toxic. A private game is being played here in which the rules of abstraction have been dismissed and replaced with irreverence.
Inspired by driving through long alpine tunnels, Wei’s paintings throw off the glare of oncoming head-lights, loud music and the sucking sense of vertigo of high speed in a confined space These tightly structured forms have been arranged with a watchmaker’s mathematical precision, but Wei clearly takes pleasure in the manipulation of the painter’s tools and materials. Many of his spiralling forms mimic involuted brushstrokes with the marks of the bristles in evidence. The clouds of exhaust and deadening strip-lights of road tunnels are thus granted the rhythmic vitality of nature: the interior of a psychedelic lily or the satiny sheen of a bird’s wing. The spiralling forces at work in these crisp acrylics employ the dynamism and speed of the early 20th century Futurists. However, the speed that Wei generates is that of a fictional distant future, visually closer to the Starship Enterprise vanishing into hyperspace leaving a trace of itself smeared across the universe. These carefully balanced forms have been invested with a defiant stellar energy, pulsing with the speed of sound and light.
Artists: Danny Rolph, Phillip Allen, Wei Kuo
Title: When forms become attitude
Curator: Danny Rolph. Critic text: Nickie Brierley Austin
Inauguration: March 28 th, ore 19.00
Data: March 29 th – April 29 th 2006.