As a student in the 1960’s I produced so called ‘Op Art’ paintings and sculpture, and ever since I have been fascinated by the capability of paint on canvas to affect emotions and distort representations of space through the eye. Wikipedia credits Victor Vasarely as the creator of what it describes as the ‘short lived’ Op Art movement. Unfortunately for Wikipedia this is another example of its sometime wild inaccuracy, as many of the movements exponents are still working. My hero, then as now, is Bridget Riley, who’s recent show in the De La Warr pavilion I reviewed.
It amuses me to see so much ‘op art’ in the environment, everywhere from naked tree branches to my current amusement photographically, the ‘Bridget Riley of the Shingle’. I suppose the name hit me as an echo of the ‘Madonna with the Big Boobies’ from the TV farce ‘Allo Allo’, but the amusement is also in the way the visual quality of the groynes colouration and relation with both the sea and shingle has echoes for me of the paintings of Bridget Riley – and her fame I suppose also lifts her in my mind to the celebrity enjoyed by a Madonna…
The interplay between salt spray and metal and the corrosion that results produces variations of texture and colour that are endlessly interesting. The sheet metal rusts and blisters, and algae create different colours on the plates. The colour change is horizontal but the plates are vertical and it is this juxtaposing that sets up the visual tension I so enjoy. Waves crashing and shingle grating against the metal add a dynamic sound/visual to the static image too, a ‘happening’ to use an antique term.
I have played with alternating strips of drawing and photography for quite a long time, exhibiting work on this theme (if you can call it a theme) in galleries in the 1970’s. The techniques have evolved especially with the way in which digital photography has freed up the enjoyment of the image in scale, immediacy and the ability to collage with drawing in a variety of media. It parallels the way Bridget Riley also uses collage as a part of her drawing and making technique.
My latest paintings and collages have used both photography and digital printing as I attempt a merger between the two, walking a fine line between abstraction and realism. This is a line I walk in the flower paintings too, where colour is broken out of the image, as shown in the Honeysuckle canvas. This plays with the emotional relationships of colour, with pattern, whilst bringing to the viewer an uneasy recognition with the realism of the flower drawing that underpins the structure. Strangely enough I have seen children recognise the image more easily, their innocent eye easily reading the drawing separately from the colour.
The relationship between seeing and image making, between the pure emotional play of abstract colour working and that shock of recognition of the audience/viewers world reality within art is a part of the evolution of art – from Uccello’s realism in the use of perspective through Turners abstractions of storm and sunsets, Monet’s flowers into Bridget Riley’s early wave series.
On Seaford seafront I find all this present, almost as a standing art joke to be enjoyed over and over on my walks. It seems to me that part of the rǒle of the artist is to represent realities that are around us as they see them, and in turn make us look differently at the realities we see.
Do you find similar echoes of artists in the realities of your world, or echoes of your realities in the work of artists you like?
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