4th – 26th April 2014
Anna Schwartz Gallery
Stephen Bram’s ongoing project, which continues here with a body of paintings each titled Untitled (two point perspective), is grounded in a process of creating spaces with multiple ‘vanishing points’, those artificial constructions of pictorial space that allow the eye to see depth in two-dimensional images.
Constructing images from a real and specific yet sometimes random set of graphic co-ordinates, Bram produces paintings that hover between the flatness of the canvas or screen, and the immense sensation of spatial depth that occurs in images of one-point-perspective space. By employing and doubling the conventional technique of one-point-perspective composition, the works refer to and depart from centuries of painting, from the early 15th Century experiments of linear perspective, to the late 19th Century innovations into abstraction, and by the mid-20th Century, abstraction’s avant-garde dominance. These works equivocate purposefully between the ‘subjectlessness’ of certain kinds of abstraction, their insistence on the paramount importance of their own materiality; and the richness of the world outside the painting, the world to which each of Bram’s paintings points, in multiple directions at once.
The original perspectival co-ordinates of a painting are, to the viewer, invisible and unknowable; for Bram, they are unimportant except as a way of anchoring each painting in the world. Bram’s project is marked by an intense concentration on the execution of a single idea, carried out carefully and purposefully for over two decades across a variety of media, but always returning to painting. For Bram, each group of works, though somewhat different in appearance to previous groups, contains within it the original kernel of this idea, and the entirety of the project so far. A new set of works indicates a new area of experimentation, and perhaps a new set of knowledge. The space of painting is pored over, several aspects at once: size, scale, colour, opacity, geometric complexity. Shaking off the rigid linear perspective of true technical drawing, Bram improvises, not planning every element before beginning to paint. In the current body of work, an unusual inflection of colour is apparent, a less plastic thickness of tone allowing the surface of the canvas to be more noticeable; the cartoon like outlining of colour in grey or black referencing pop alongside the higher-culture references from the history of art. A closeness of attention to Bram’s works, over time, rewards each viewing.
Contrary to the seemingly more and more apparent impulse toward novelty and trend in contemporary art and life, Bram returns time and time again to an idea and a process that have sustained his practice over many years, with a surprisingly heterogeneous range of results. His works are reminders of the value of looking again, of the necessity to test and assess ideas over time, and of the immense world of variation possible within the tightest framework of rules.