BEYOND THE SURFACE:  six abstract painters

BEYOND THE SURFACE features six abstract painters: Hans Hancock, Patrick Morrissey, Marion Piper, Julie Umerle, Piers Veness and Simon Zabell.

Marion Piper, Repeat Copier (Marylebone/2), 2018, 46 x 61 cm, gouache and oil on canvas, © Marion Piper

As a society we are losing the ability to look for a sustained length of time, our gaze now reduced to a glimpse. So accustomed are we to seeing images that they hardly register, perhaps pictures themselves are now losing their value.  In this regard digital media has a lot to answer for: over the course of the last decade, the quantity of images that we consume on a daily – or even hourly basis – has ballooned in direct proportion with the invasion of screens in our public and private personal space. According to a 2015 article in the New York Times, more than a trillion photos are taken every year. Where looking at an image was once a luxury to be savoured – think back to church paintings, engravings, even early photography – today an image barely makes a mark on our consciousness, so fleeting is it. As a result, our visual attention span is shortening: images have become a kind of constant enveloping feature of our habitat, always present but to which we now pay little attention.

Julie Umerle, Rewind V (red),  2016, 55 x 55 cm, acrylic on canvas, © Julie Umerle

Furthermore, the majority of images that bombard us in our pervasive digital lives are readily digestible, without the need for intellectual effort – in fact their success depends wholly upon their directness. Due to the vast quantity of images that vie with one another for our attention, the more direct the image the better the chances it has of registering in our minds. Consequently, we are losing our ability to look with depth at images, to see beyond the surface.

This therefore presents a serious challenge for those of us in the realm of painting. A painting asks us to spend time with it, the more time the better, and to reflect, investigate, imagine. But if visual audiences are now looking for just a fraction of a second, and expect immediacy of message, how do we counteract this?

The work in Beyond the Surface contains various geometrical elements: grids, doorways, blocks of colour, visual imageplay which perhaps hold our attention or longer than is customary. The underlying connection between the paintings is their internal structure, their sense of order and the way in which they work within the boundaries of the canvas. In an interview in The White Review in 2015, Rosalind Krauss stated that “the movement towards abstraction is a move towards the reflexive presentation of the material substrate of the work: the frame, the canvas.” All of the paintings in this exhibition work within these reflections, and the exhibition as a whole reflects upon the length and the depth of the gaze in the digital world. © Piers Veness, 2018

The exhibition runs from 28 March – 14 June 2018. Private View: 27 March. 6 – 8 pm.
The Crypt, St Marylebone Parish Church 17 Marylebone Road, London NW1 5LT www.stmarylebone.org

About Mark Westall

Mark Westall is the Founder and Editor of FAD magazine, a curation of the world’s most interesting culture.