Being lost in absolute abstraction is not like being lost in space; or, more precisely, not like being lost in pictorial space. Rather it is like being lost because there are no reference points, no places where we can take comfort in familiar stories – allegorical, political or even art historical. They are jettisoned in favour of artistic gestures that assert a reality continuous with an object world that we inhabit.
It is good to be lost, like a character in E.M. Forster’s Room with a View being deprived of their guide book, and thus open to experiences that cannot be anticipated – even unknown unknowns – and so we aspire to a kind of pure consciousness, a child-like perception of things seen for the first time. Such is an abstractionist heaven. On Earth, unfortunately, a fact of human life is that all experience is mediated and, for one reason or another – often despite ourselves – we make value judgments and theory-based observations. We see the here and now through a lens that has been shaped by what we have lived through. Let’s face it, artistic abstraction cannot be absolutely abstract, but we admire those who strive to take us with them to places without sign posts.
Lost in Abstraction: 1, 2, 3 5 Henry Ward and Mark Wright are, aesthetically, at the abstract end of the spectrum. We get their references but, most of all, enjoy the here and now – the ‘I was here’ – quality of their paintings. How refreshing, given the academic, research-based nature of much art work being made these days. In perverse moments I find myself dreaming of a Neo-Formalism, but the exclusive, obscurantist connotations are not to my (preconditioned) taste. Simply, let’s have more of this unpretentious, unportentous creativity. Given the privations visited upon us since the advent of the pandemic, it is just what the doctor ordered.
– Jonathan Watkins
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