A grid within a grid. This is the impression one feels while roaming the immense space of the Blain Southern gallery in Mayfair.
The origin for the curation “Playground Structure” is an eponymous photograph by Jeff Wall depicting a random public installation which at first sight, could be innocently mistaken for a child’s playground.
It is with the same ambivalence that we are guided within the gallery, uncertain if we are gazing at an art which expresses playfulness or an art with which we are supposed to play with. All the artworks span from 1969 to the present and are reminiscent of the radical approach employed by the modernists of the 1920s who were breaking away from realism.
The extra-large walls of the gallery allow the paintings to be assembled in pairs or in threes. These combinations, in addition to the varying techniques, sizes, and colour palettes, make the experience more captivating and entertaining for the mind. The paintings share the same foundation, created using the same grid to which each artist hints at a game, expresses an idea, or simply makes a statement. The paintings mentioned below reflect the best the idiosyncratic curation animating the gallery walls.
Dan Walsh and Rachel Howard’s canvases have been affixed next to one another. They both adopt the same shades and horizontal black lines. What is most intriguing, is how the spatial organisation of a grid can appear so similar and restrictive in its original shape yet so different in its components.
Some artists seem to have attempted to soften the tension created by the grid and play with colour hues, drips of paints, and uneven lines. Ed Moses’s oblique strokes of tape and sporadic pencil marks, in conversation with Mary Heilmann’s pink cross shape, appear to have indulged in the development of a traditional grid, calling for harmony and imperfection.
Daniel Sturgis and Dan Walsh are tied in a battle of complexity where geometrical forms and precise colour placement is paramount. Organization, symmetry, and perfect order inhabit the canvases and confer a serious tone to the grid compared to those around them.
The content of Amy Feldman and Jeremy Moon’s paintings stand out with their two distinct approaches to the structures representation . One uses curves, the other flat lines. One tends to reach for three-dimensional matter, the other wishes to stay as close to the canvas’ surface as possible.
Rachel Howard’s large canvas brought a particular phenomenon to my attention. From afar, underneath the perfectly ordered pattern, shadows transpire as if seeking camouflage. There is an uncanny reference to mystery which emerges after visiting the space. The grids, as much as they refer to games and playfulness, also suggest they have the potential to hide and conceal, as if hiding was also a type of game.
Playground Structure at Blain Southern (1 august – 16 September 2017)