Text by Rebecca Senior
‘No more “likeness of reality”, no idealistic images-nothing but a desert! But this desert is filled with the spirit of non-objective sensation which pervades everything’
Kasmir Malevich Suprematism in Modern Artists on Art, 2000.
As categorical modes of expression, geometric and reductive abstraction offer up infinite, and often digressive interpretations of form. &Model’s latest exhibition, Crossing Lines, establishes itself amongst abstraction’s visual contradictions of control and expression, concealment and revelation, chaos and order. Work by the 16 artists on show encompasses painting, sculpture, drawing, video and collage, all of which focus on an abstract approach to image making in order to privilege the sensations which Malevich asserted ‘pervade everything’. The conversation around postmodern abstraction is then, quite a serious one. The two curators responsible for the exhibition, Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hanz Hancock, interpret abstraction’s place in contemporary art as a decisive, non-objective re-examination of shape, line and colour. Providing a welcome interruption to this no-nonsense endeavor are ‘Parallel Lines’, additional works selected by &Model, which lightly corrupt the curatorial agenda. The exhibition is a thought provoking statement and a gestural hijack of geometric abstraction’s serious agenda.
On the first and second floor, Giulia Ricci’s Order/Disruption series evokes the kaleidoscopic illusion you associate with repetitive shape abstraction. The pen and ink drawings of tiny shapes recall the intensive labour and material output of the artist – whilst perception of their whole form is constantly predetermined by the viewers position in the room. Trusted Chamber by David Leapman offers a similar kind of visual intensity, but in the case of Leapman it is in the constant search for the object. The rigidity of recognisable patterns is lost in glitter, you encounter a snakeskin, a house, a volcano, a toothpaste tube and then nothing. Presenting the various painted block canvases throughout the gallery space keeps the viewer in a constant state of suspended perception, searching for two dimensional movement which is actually caged in the second floor room by Patrick Morrissey’s Four States – a trippy rolling loop undulation video of red, orange, blue and black lines and shapes. The exhibition’s crux work is Syd Barrett and the Bauhaus- a parallel ‘intervention’ selected by &Model. The piece is a manic video montage comprised of sporadic interruptions of music and image. It is a compilation of early noughties student work, capitalizing on the new age of digital editing technology. An intriguing short of a sinister pack of post-it like coloured material, which appears to have taken on a life of its own by quietly permeating mundane human existence, is skillfully placed in the exhibition. The ‘post-it’ notes – square shapes of various colours – appear against backdrop noise of horror music revelation. Their existence as mere forms of colour and shape are given artificial intelligence, and an amusing/false gravitas which cuts through the solemnity of the more formalist work on display.
The purpose, appreciation and interpretation of geometric abstraction has always been a contentious issue. Ad Reinhart’s Twelve Techinical Rules, which is printed onto the stairwell of the gallery, negates form, space, colour, line and object. The text is the ultimate digression in non-objective art – describing art as a singular force devoid of form and all else. It is these denials however that point to other things that matter, and the success of the exhibition is in this very sentiment. &Model’s Parallel Lines have reframed the category of contemporary abstraction and privileged the encounter of visual forces in motion in order to create an exhibition which makes you think in colour and sensation, Malevich would have been impressed.
Rebecca Senior is a writer based in Leeds, and a Phd candidate in History of Art at The University of York.