Ben­jamin Arm­strong, Stephen Bram, Janet Burchill & Jen­nifer McCam­ley, Angela de la Cruz, Mikala Dwyer, Clement Meadmore
In abstrac­tion, the body

28th April – 16th June 2012
Anna Schwartz Gallery Carriageworks

In abstrac­tion, the body: a ratio­nale, a feeling

In abstrac­tion, the body com­pos­es a line of gen­er­a­tive dia­logue between the works of sev­en artists, each of whose com­plex, inter­dis­ci­pli­nary prac­tice in some way grap­ples with modernism’s alter­ing of rep­re­sen­ta­tion, and its rad­i­cal dis­so­lu­tions, dis­avowals, re-eval­u­a­tions and trans­for­ma­tions of the body. an impor­tant con­text for the inclu­sion of these par­tic­u­lar works, iso­lat­ed from the wider con­cep­tu­al pro­grams pur­sued by the artists is a con­tem­po­rary human­ist foun­da­tion in which art organ­is­es both expe­ri­ence and the world”.

In abstrac­tion, the body emerges from my read­ing of and response to the paint­ings of Fran­cis Bacon and Bar­nett New­man. Specif­i­cal­ly, Fran­cis Bacon’s asser­tion that he saw his work as a tightrope walk between fig­u­ra­tive paint­ing and abstrac­tion” has guid­ed my own under­stand­ing of modernism’s rad­i­cal trans­for­ma­tions of the body, and feel­ing for the dynam­ic spa­tial emer­gence of the fig­u­ra­tive body from abstrac­tion, or the immer­sion or absorp­tion of the body in abstraction.

It was Newman’s paint­ing that opened my eyes as an art stu­dent to the meta­phys­i­cal and spir­i­tu­al dimen­sions of abstract pic­to­r­i­al space; of the capac­i­ty of abstract space to acti­vate and alter the exist­ing con­di­tions of the imag­i­na­tion and the view­ing body. Newman’s desire that his paint­ing give a view­er, some­how, a feel­ing of his own total­i­ty, of his own sep­a­rate­ness, of his own indi­vid­u­al­i­ty” under­pins yet simul­ta­ne­ous­ly mod­er­ates the sub­jec­tiv­i­ty I have brought to com­pos­ing this dia­log­ic line.

I envis­aged a tightrope’ run­ning the length of the gallery, this line inter­act­ing vital­ly with the archi­tec­ture, and par­tic­u­lar­ly with the archae­ol­o­gy of the floor and the visu­al residues of its indus­tri­al past. Five sculp­tur­al works, all gen­er­al­ly scaled to the human body — but that infer and allude to the body in non-didac­tic ways are sit­u­at­ed between Stephen Bram’s 2007 paint­ing Unti­tled (two point per­spec­tive) and Mike Parr’s The Atom­i­cArm(1995). While Bram’s and Parr’s works oper­ate as pow­er­ful visu­al and spa­tial anchors of the tightrope, they are not end points in the con­ven­tion­al man­ner objects define archi­tec­tur­al para­me­ters. rather, both offer an abstract space of per­spec­ti­val van­ish­ing points that open space beyond their two- dimen­sion­al (Bram) and three-dimen­sion­al (Parr) planes, into which the view­ing body and psy­che can poten­tial­ly be absorbed.

This tightrope has two itin­er­aries – for­ward and back­ward – and this estab­lish­es the dynam­ic rela­tion between works: from Bram to Mead­more to Burchill/​McCamley to Dwyer to de la Cruz to Armstrong
to Parr and back again, there is a demand on view­ers to make cer­tain con­cep­tu­al leaps between forms
and their con­tent, and those leaps can play on the idea that this tightrope artic­u­lates ten­sions between the geo­met­ric and the infor­mal; between inor­gan­ic and organ­ic; pro­jec­tion and reces­sion; poise and imbal­ance; res­o­lu­tion and imper­fec­tion; dis­so­lu­tion and recon­sti­tu­tion; phys­i­cal and mate­r­i­al lim­its / intel­lec­tu­al and emo­tion­al lim­it­less­ness – all con­di­tions of the body and of abstraction.

In abstrac­tion, the body pro­pos­es a line of dynam­ic dia­logue. There is a play between forms as they emerge from res­olute abstrac­tion to inter­sect with nature, the mod­el­ling of noth­ing­ness, to the frag­ile, erot­ic body: its appear­ance and even­tu­al disappearance.

Jason Smith, 2012


In abstrac­tion, the body, 2012
instal­la­tion view, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Carriageworks
Curat­ed by Jason Smith