Visible Traces offers an alternative showing of works by Ian Stephenson (1934-2000) in the context of a select group show. Stephenson was a pioneering English abstract artist who characteristically splattered colours in layers towards obliteration. His work featured in Antonioni’s film Blow Up (1966), an iconic vision of London in the swinging sixties. The film’s aura of elegance and cool was transferred onto the artist and made him fashionable, but obscured the serious intent behind his lifelong investigation into visual density.
“Countless happenings in time present as one simultaneous expression. Emptiness filled with matter. Solids filled with space.” Andrew Forge (The Independent)
Curators Julian Page and Joanna Bryant seek to provide new insights into this underrated artist, by contextualising his work with that of three emerging artists. A series of his prints are shown alongside sculptures by Jayne Wilton, paintings by Robinson/McMahon and photographs by Elizabeth Hayley.
Visible Traces draws attention to Stephenson’s work in a new, contemporary context and suggests links between these diverse artists and one of the pioneers of British 60’s abstract art.
Julian Page and Joanna Bryant are independent art curators and dealers, supporting emerging and established contemporary artists and working together to hold exhibitions that reveal surprising dialogues through the process of collaboration.
Private View, Tuesday 12 April (6-8.30pm)
Exhibition, Wednesday 13 – Saturday 16 April (11am-6pm)
Finissage Brunch, Sunday 17 April (11am – 1pm)
The artists and works:
Ian Stephenson (1934-2000) taught painting at the Chelsea School of Art alongside Richard Hamilton, Victor Pasmore and Jeremy Moon, and was exhibited widely with other significant artists of his day, including Patrick Caulfield, Howard Hodgkin and RB Kitaj. Shown within this exhibition are six original prints from the series ‘Phoenix’, which comprises 540 unique prints put together in sets of six. The basic image has an additional rectangle (about one seventh the size of the whole) collaged onto each print in six sequences of regulated shifts of angle, determined by the movement of the rectangle around the edge of the image area, starting at the top left corner. From a position against the edge it tilts on one fixed corner until another corner or side hits the edge again; then it tilts away from a new fixed corner. The movement is thus like a regulated tumbling around the inside edge of the image area. The completed sequence ends with the rectangle back in its starting position. The prints were numbered from 1 to 540 from start to finish of the sequence and the sets of six were made up by taking one from each run of ninety figures.
Elizabeth Hayley’s silver gelatin prints on steel and brass, seek to trace a record and likeness of the experience of life lived on and surrounded by water, making references to the past and impermanence. The pictorial quality of her photographic tableaux correlates with their documentary value: about life on a ship, old vessels, or boat communities; about ways of seeing and ways of doing, yet they also invite us to experience the density and transparency of time.
While most of Jayne Wilton‘s work focuses on making exhaled breath visible, she is also intrigued by the in-breath, which is more challenging to capture without clinical equipment. Recently, she has been exploring media that allows her to make visible both the in-breath and the out-breath. The resulting work, Round, is a series of sculptures that demonstrates the dynamics of the full breathing cycle. Round uses molten glass to capture breathing, in particular the in-breath. She created the sculptures using traditional glassblowing processes that involve exhaling into molten glass through a pipe. Unlike traditional glassblowing, however, and before the glass had cooled, she inhaled back into the pipe. The resultant lung-like form demonstrates the force and motion of the in-breath. The idea of a breath turning back in on itself was one of her core considerations for creating the Round series, as were ideas of liminality and palimpsests; at every moment we overwrite each breathing gesture with that of the next.
As a collaboration of two artists painting on the same canvas, with very different methods of using paint, Jason Robinson and Helen McMahon are guided by reaction and response, not imposing rules or process. A finished work exists as a result of all marks made by both artists, whether they are still seen, been obliterated or have just left a trace. Their practice shows the distinctly different painting styles which convey a dissonant harmony, a playful discussion, muted versus loud. There are times though when there is no harmony or discussion but rather a full blown argument and attack on each other’s marks. A number of these paintings have been left to calm down over a few years and as they have become more considered of each other’s actions, these battle scarred paintings have been salvaged. Sanding has bulldozed some of the blights but still left a trace, foundations that have been built upon and smoothed over, a kind of beauty from the rubble.
Their paintings exist because of the other; not necessarily bearing equal marks, but coming to a compromise, a resolution to find a kind of harmony.