Text by Frederic Anderson – MFA Fine Art Student, Wimbledon
Current MFA Fine Art student and Postgraduate Community Ambassador for Wimbledon College of Arts Frederic Anderson went along to Camberwell Space‘s Symposium Imperfect Reverse and has kindly written his review of the event below:
This talk was of particular interest to me as I’ve been interested in the work of the Saturation Point artists for some time now, without being able to put my finger on exactly why, their approach being vastly different to my own.
By placing geometric abstraction in it’s historical context and igniting a debate about systems-based approaches, the symposium offered a window onto a way of making art that at first glance can appear rather impenetrable. It also sought to investigate the notion of a dialogue between the original 1970’s Systems Group and contemporary practitioners employing similar methods today.
The discussion began with Natalie Dower setting the stage for the emergence of systems-based geometric abstraction in the 1970’s as a reaction against expressionism and a response to the dawn of the age of computing. She explained how in her work systems are employed as a set of rules of conduct – “without rules, communication is not possible”. She also spoke of the idea of a work of art that is complete within its own context and how each individual element of a composition is radically and intrinsically linked to the whole.
“A visual dance, dissonance, optical interference – not knowing at the outset how the final structure will fit together”, was how Katrina Blannin described her approach. She also introduced the idea of transposition between generations, how the current wave of artists pursuing geometric abstraction are seeking to reinvent, reconstruct and transpose the ideas of the 1970’s Systems Group rather than being its torch bearers in a new era.
The arguments also touched upon the idea of a computer aesthetic, how Charley Peters‘ work in particular emulates digital space despite being meticulously and laboriously created by hand. It is this contradiction that forms the core concept of the exhibition – the idea of creating a perfect system (i.e. mathematics) and using an inherently imperfect method to execute it (paint on canvas applied by humans). The imperfections that necessarily arise as part of the process of applying the formula then become the point interest. These are the points where the system failed, the blips, smudges, lumps of paint, the evidence of human error and the fallibility of the system.
But what constitutes a system? The artists in the exhibition employ such diverse systems as tight, rigid mathematical formulas (begging the question: is the formula itself the ‘art’ or the resulting canvas?), responding to the notion of being caught in a complex web of external systems in the form of big data, corporate culture, pie charts and office aesthetics (Ian Monroe), and operational approaches involving time restrictions and acquiring materials from specific sources at specific times (Laurence Noga).
Despite having gained a valuable insight into a field I knew little about, in many ways after the symposium I was left with more questions than before. However, these questions have ignited a vital spark of interest that I can now explore in my own work. As a starting point, I’m left with the idea of imperfection as a necessary part of any system, as a key to mutation, evolution and development, the idea of restriction as a driver for innovation and renewal, the reassurance of not being the only artist that finds “colour is the most impossible thing to organise” and the beautiful visual image of applying computer-generated algorithms to canvas using natural sea sponges dipped in paint.
– An invigorating and extremely wide-ranging evening of discussion.
Imperfect Reverse Symposium speakers included: Laurence Noga (Chair) Curator of Imperfect Reverse, Artist | Natalie Dower, Artist | Emma Hill, Eagle Gallery | Colin Cina, Artist | Estelle Thompson, Artist | Amie Conway, Flowers Gallery | Ian Monroe, Artist | Katrina Blannin, Artist .
Exhibition Runs: 18 October – 18 November 2016 (open to members of the public by appointment).
Artists include: Dominic Beattie, Andrew Bick, Katrina Blannin, Jane Bustin, Richard Caldicott, Simon Callery, Colin Cina, Nathan Cohen, Chris Daniels Natalie Dower, Tim Ellis, Julia Farrer, Sue Kennington, Sharon Hall, Andrew Harrison, Hanz Hancock, Michael Kidner, Sylvia Lerin, Patrick Morrissey, Marta Marce, Ian Monroe, Laurence Noga, David Oates, Andrew Parkinson, Jonathan Parsons, Charley Peters, Carol Robertson, Wendy Smith, Daniel Sturgis, Trevor Sutton, Kate Terry, Estelle Thompson, Finbar Ward
Presented by Camberwell Space Projects, Imperfect Reverse is a group exhibition curated by Laurence Noga, in collaboration with Saturation Point, an editorial and curatorial project for reductive, geometric and systems artists working in the UK. The term ‘imperfect reverse’ intimates a move towards a structural logic, generative grammar, allowing an outside system or set of rules to drive the making of a series of works.
Bringing together the work of artists from the 1960s and 70s Systems Group, to younger artists working today, this exhibition surveys a wide range of approaches to the notion of an imperfect reverse.
This exhibition questions that transformation through a coercion that is both temporal and aspectual. Examining an operational shift in working process towards a synthesis of experience.