The Drawers - (ab strak' tid) Commentary by Julie Oakes

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Exhibition Photos - 2009, Headbones Gallery

 (ab strak' tid) 

Abstraction simplifies the puzzle of existence so that tiny diverse pieces form shapes that can more easily be interlocked with other shapes. Abstraction evens out dissimilarities. An exhibition of abstract works manifests this idea as, visually, a harmonious sense of heightened organisation replaces the cacophony of things that make up our normal physical environment. Gone is the furniture, utilitarian objects, didactic pressures of politics and socialisation. In their place is an outcropping of intellect. Diverse techniques and styles are more able to relate to each other when 'object' has been removed, when the non-objective overtakes the referential.

Even in those works where there is a resilient reference, as in Mahmoud Meraji's large untitled acrylic paintings or Forero's shaped and painted panels, the elements of form, line and colour dominate over subject matter. The implied figures assist the trajectory described by the paint but the work is more about the mind than the matter. This is the satisfaction of abstraction; that it is relational. It relates within itself, to the borders that contain, to the exploration of the series , and to the larger field of abstraction. In (ab strak’ tid), the pieces 'talk' to each other.

With abstraction, research changes from reference, narrative, literality or information to the tools of the trade - colour, space, form, texture, line. Bodo Korsig parries enigmatic line drawings of shapes that have metamorphic, biological or segmented suggestions with the word (man's ultimate abstract creation). The word is mark making that communicates message rather than existing solely as visual marks. The straight line and curve of the 'D', for instance is not as relevant as the fact that 'D' begins the word 'DIRTY'. YOUR MIND IS DIRTY. The text furthers the association with the intellect when the mind as the totality of the conscious and unconscious is described as a sullied physicality. The letters set up a new relationship between imagery and the meaning of the word. The bar of colour on which the word is placed reconfigures the rectangle and with intrinsic specificity, brings in another relational element.

The quality of the ink on the paper of these unique wood-block prints, allows for another appreciation as the density of colour (white or colour on black on white paper), with inconsistent covering, allows for a textural sensibility to the material. Fluidity, viscosity, opacity serve the linear and make the shapes happen as the flow of the hand is echoed in the press, roll and pressure of ink applied. From the making to the reception, the intellectual rigour is communicated through the medium. But not just the medium is the message. The message is also the medium with which Korsig puts forth his ruminations.

Using new media, Khaled Mansur brings a literal three dimensionality into his work. Using slickness to erase the trace of his hand, he overrides the expressive potential with his perfect technical acumen. The object gains the upper hand rather than the maker - perhaps the ultimate aim of creativity - and the result is something more absolute than the originator. The basis for minimalism was the paring back of complexity to a purist point, unencumbered by human fallibility. The works of Donald Judd or Ellsworth Kelly are examples where the process is so mechanical that they appear manufactured rather than made. In Mansur's work, the fabrication is so smart that it leaves no room for evidence of human mistakes. This science fictive precision supports the aerodynamic lines. The lighting in Tomorrow Contained  comes from the inside of the piece yet there is no sign of a power source. It appears to generate its own illumination, a futuristic concept, but it is actually beaming from the 'mother source'  ambient light, just as earth is lit by the sun or moon.

Mansur's colour schemes vacillate between industrial, corporate and the disco space where the sheerness of plexi-glass is background for chi-chi. Along with the Bauhaus, modernity and the sleek perfection of automobiles, Mansur is in stride with the times and with an unflinching determination to perfect his aesthetic through new media, he is the purist within (ab-strak-tid).

The individuality of the artist as it translates his particular interests into the physical art object is filtered through the chosen technique. Steve Rockwell's Parallax I, II and III, with obsessive precision, reveals a logical, ordered, patient agency of human nature as, with a clear, clean, method; he challenges the perceptions. He provokes a number of responses that transpire as a run of revelations, each transformative step in the process being predictable, much like a ritual initiation. From a distance, the paper appears to carry an over-all colour field. Closer inspection reveals that the colour field is made up of thousands of minuscule circles or squares. A new aspect of the transformation now occurs as the painterly application of colour shows that each unit is hand painted and still retains the gesture of the application. These read as a seemingly infinite number of small and perfect paintings that are interesting in themselves, square inch by square inch, and yet also demanding an attention as to how each section relates to the whole.

The meditative repetition of this process also produces a sonorous effect on the spectator's eye. It is strenuous trying to discern the combinations of patterns, the links in directions and pathways that form the relationships between the individual units. So the final level left open to the spectator is one on which to de-focus, to rest in the fact that Rockwell has done the work, both mentally and physically, and it is time to enjoy the pleasure of a visual sensation.

Relating well to this ordered obsession is Heidi Thompson's large colour field works. The immediate impression is a sensate response as colour field becomes a launching pad for more particular experiences embedded in the viewer's consciousness, to spring into being.

Using the piece as an object for meditation, and paring the sensation down to the energy that is flowing into the eyes and being then transmitted to the brain brings about a distinctly human frame of mind. Because there is no subject other than the materials that make up the phenomenal object that is the piece of art, there is room to enter into a symbiotic relationship with the artwork. This pure seeing, because of human cognizance, causes an emotion in reaction to the sheer beauty, or maybe dread at the subliminal mystery inherent in being or it could be a pleasurable shock at the glory of perceiving such a vision. This is the strength and appeal of Thompson's abstraction; the psychic or spiritual overrides matter spurred by remembrance or recollection.  The art work as physical presence catches attention (memory of patina, wall or rust, for instance) and yet it doesn't fade into disinterest over time. The wonder continues and the piece pulses a new version of the vision with each encounter.

Scott Taylor dives into rarefied illuminations of the mind both referentially and through stimulating the response  to jibe with his original state of mind. Rather than hinging on a spring resilience as in Meraji or Forero's work with the figurative an inspiration for the abstract, the associative aspects in Taylor’s work have been gifted to the viewer. There are just enough hints or semblances to precipitate the response in the intended vein. Taylor's work conjures the spiritual, mythological, religious and alchemical. His predestination grants an opportunity to revisit the precious realms held in the specific memory bank of each viewer. Tapestries, illuminated manuscripts, jewels, gold, silver, diamonds, bibles, illustrated fairy tales, holy tomes of any denomination, dance, and magic are but a few of the equivalent impressions spawned by Taylor’s work. That there is a passage way, portal or framed invitation in the composition parallels the staging of the religious narratives produced during the renaissance. The rarefied implications experienced by the creator and then experienced by the viewer connect but also grant room for the individuality of perception and personal historical references.

The luminescent delicate palette brings beauty into Taylor's pictures - a philosophical standpoint that contains a positivist belief system. This originating stance provokes a corresponding 'plus', a pleasurable component that relates to the ecstatic visuals. The most wonderful objects were those said to be 'fit for a king' and this is the present that Taylor offers - pieces destined for  palates as regally intelligent as his own.

Mahmoud Meraji's work is subtle and classy, intellectual and yet fresh. Like the story-line of dreams where the connections are hard to make but the sense is embedded in the memorable impact of the visual, so his figures and their situations veer away from logic to enter a more instinctual realm. His work is an example of the term abstract when used as an  adjective as in the title of the exhibition (ab strak’ tid). He uses a vocabulary of images that seem to   possess romantic underpinnings, where the visual illustrates taste. Never too much, sparingly doled out to accentuate the detailed rendering, Meraji uses repetition in a symphonic sense, subverting rhythms in favour of a melody that forms agreeable successions and arrangements of shapes and movements. It is a classical melody with attention to form lending a general effect of balance while the emotions are distant and collected. Mahmoud Meraji is graceful in his depiction. He is discreet, with a gentleman's manners. And because of these layers of meanings, not quite revealed, but refined and cultured, the work touches the finer aspects of our own connoisseurship with a firm presence of mind.

With pop flare and lightness of heart (art), David Samila's line drawings also use romantic illusions but with more of a romp than a wooing. The clouds, lace, pokes, tongues, puffy piles of soft shapes and patterning bring to mind coverlets, bed sheets, pillows, dreams and bed. Whereas Kandinsky gave credence to the importance of play, serendipity and the whimsical, Samila flies these notions in the fresh breeze of his personal spontaneous joy. His significance  is in bringing together a wide age range for although his work is mature there is a youthful appeal as if he has transcended time by yielding to the force of uninhibited expression. This unabashed creativity, unselfconscious and liberated, is the crux of the relief of abstraction. It is where the mind overpowers the confines of the physical and anything can happen.

Imagine a combination between a furnace and a tornado  a forceful blast of energy, whirling, spiralling upwards and away while carrying with it, like Dorothy to Oz, an enchanting, curious, sprightly being, enlivened by the tipsy curviness. This is Cesar Forero for the work that he manifests retains the character of the creator - Cesar seated atop his creative wave.

Cesar's dancing shapes, saturated with a luscious exoticism - his birth place, Colombia - form suggestive patterns with psychedelic twists of perception. Forero is also a dancer, costumer, film maker, set designer and these abstracted figures, like photogenic pirouettes frozen in mid-stride, glitzy and glorifying in it, dramatise abstraction. The simplification of abstraction, in Forero's art, is about the excited mind, the aroused intellect, - sensational research. The multi-disciplinary relationships in Forero's work also provides a segue into the performance work of Ram Samocha.

Abstract expressionism lauded the gesture and the trace of the artist's movement. Combining the practice of creation with performance, Samocha's work focuses on the non-representational, but generously opens the mystical doors of his individual creative process through his present physical movements. By being present, his movements become a part of the art piece, an abstracted version of a self portrait. The artist is present in the work when he steps away from it but he is also present for the viewer as he completes the piece. That his mark is long and rhythmic allows for an athletic performance. That the work is completed on site and then viewed where it was accomplished allows the aura of the phenomenal object a palatable history as if the ghost of Samocha hovers once he has left.

This conversation with abstraction wraps up with a strong, weighty foot in the place where abstraction solidified - modernism. Formalist and secure in craft, Boyke's work speaks within itself and to itself, communicating similarities between the individual sculptures as well as unique traits. With a hieroglyphic distinction, his language is best understood by the initiated. What appears to be privileged visual information is unraveled when the key to the source of the imagery is made clear. Closer inspection - and illumination by the artist for it is doubtful that the impressions would be read as such without direction - reveals that a horseshoe, a saw blade, the grip of a tool and other utilitarian items have been pressed into the original bed from which the bronze mould was made. The formation of the final bronze, from the first material (clay, wax or plasticine) is made by passing through a stage where a mould is made in which to pour the molten metal. Boyke, with a clear and curious eye, has been known to consider this passageway from positive through negative to resulting positive as worthy of notice. He has transformed the negative into the positive which would mean that a second negative must have been made. The relief titled Kleines Medallion  is an example of such a transformation.

Abstraction is rooted in the physical world. Though the idea for the making, the intellectual component, can be complicated, convoluted, mysterious, perhaps even confused; man exists within the physical and his expression, the art object, is also physical. (Ab strak’ tid) explores works of art that, from the workings of the mind, become structured, solid works of art. The physical dependency on the 'real' object in Boyke's method of fabrication illustrates this connection and brings (to mind) a question inherent in the concept of the abstract. Can any work of art truly lay claim to the word 'abstract' for the artist obfuscates the absolute abstract when he makes the idea exist as an object. Conceptual art took this niggling contradiction a step further, but for now, Headbones Gallery will 'abstract' the term 'abstract' by concentrating on the adjective 'abstracted' - and then take another step away by titling the exhibition phonetically.

Copyright © 2009,  Julie Oakes