Into the Surface
at Brand New Gallery, Milan
February 6, 2012
Aaron Bobrow, Heather Cook, N. Dash, Alex Dordoy, Leo Gabin, Andrew Gbur, David Hominal, Erik Lindman, Nazafarin Lotfi, Joseph Montgomery, Oscar Murillo, Ben Schumacher, Hugh Scott-Douglas, Dan Shaw-Town, Nick Van Woert, Ned Vena, Phil Wagner, Lisa Williamson. This group of artists, being deeply concerned with transposing pictorial issues onto anti-conventional mediums in a traditional manner, focus their attention on the creative process for its own sake as compared to the representation of reality, pitting their various creative processes and attitudes against the concept of “abstract material”…
These works, hybrids of painting and sculpture or painting and photography, are intensely and delicately conceived with a subtle sense of balance. It is interesting to note how each artist has a specific approach to the material that constitutes the artwork, from which poetic language is born. While Aaron Bobrow’s canvases incorporate the accidental in aesthetics by exploring the life span of industrial materials (which are intent on becoming artwork through gestural signs), for the most part Phil Wagner works with poor materials, objects that have been found, recovered and recycled through a continuous expressive nexus between painting and sculpture; Alex Dordoy’s works are initially also perceived through their physical medium and take the shape of industrial debris, in this case saturated in a mixture of pictorial substances. The pictorial approach is particularly present in the work of the collective Leo Gabin where the canvases conceal a social critique conceived through an aesthetic re-elaboration that aims to stimulate the imagination which has been kept in check by stereotypes offered by the proliferation of media images, but also the works of Oscar Murillo, which is concentrated on an archaeological process of collapse/ruin/restructuring whereby even the traces of dust on his studio floor are wilfully highlighted on his canvases.
David Hominal, instead, returns to the ancient technique of encaustic painting to operate on a wide range of mediums through a process of construction and deconstruction of the image. Other artists choose to express themselves through artistic techniques that have almost procedural features, like Heather Cook, whose denim frottage in this exhibition investigates the confines between material and image by means of a phenomenological approach involving the subtraction of pigment thanks to the mechanical action of rubbing, or Ned Vena, where an aluminium panel incorporates layers of vinyl creating geometric, hypnotic plains furrowed by a pattern of ridges characterising the plastic material which has been applied. Andrew Gbur uses dribbles of serigraphic ink which seem to oppose the constriction of the adhesive tape which takes on the role of a stencil in his works, seemingly a visual distortion inherited from Op Art. Experimentation and process are behind the works of Hugh Scott-Douglas who retrieves an ancient cyanotype printing technique to elaborate once again minimalistic optical compositions. Nazafarin Lotfi’s works, on the other hand, border on monochrome and dark surfaces which devour light negating any form of visibility, here and there heterogeneous and misleading elements are made to emerge: a fishing line, staples, adhesive tape, rather than materials these are clues the artist sets before the viewer, necessary players in the theatrical representation of the void.
Erik Lindman uses a satin canvas as the surface on which he intervenes with paint and pieces of fabric, reorganizing the surfaces and transforming material into image: a dark, rippled area gives way to an almost uncut section, like a poster which has been ripped to reveal what is underneath. Dan Shaw-Town makes use of the traditional visual language of design, his works hark back to an elementary model generated by lines and graphite signs, however, these designs don a variety of surfaces and textures achieved through meticulous processes of sanding, cancelling and painting: the surfaces thus eroded, lay bare rather than remove the signs of the work’s creative process. The salient features of N. Dash’s work are an underlying purity and a private, introspective language where the artist-demiurge’s touch remains in the folds and creases of the fabric, changing the material irreversibly; the result is an almost random process, sealed with indigo pigment, a colour originating from India and endowed with ancient anthropological value. More than anything else, Ben Schumacher is interested in the concession of the object in image and he analyses this theme in depth through sculptural installations which he documents through images, creating a visual pretence of the original object. Alongside Schumacher, other artists underline the sculptural aspect which seemingly cannot be left aside when dealing with material: Joseph Montgomery’s works extend beyond the limits of the canvas, they become pictorial objects through collages of plastic elements in wax, fibreglass and cardboard, while Lisa Williamson investigates the expressive potential of objects through repositioning them, in a rigorously formal work where materials take on intuitive and cognitive functions.
Finally, Nick Van Woert does not hide his interest in architecture, a discipline which has a strong influence on his work: indeed, the artist believes in the semantics of material and focuses his interests in common materials and building materials; at the same time, his works are a criticism and service to the built environment and the human tendency towards territorial expansion.
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