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Intimacy and Distance | Alan Reynolds: A Small Retrospective. Works from 1951-
Annely Juda Fine Art, 14 February -
A review by Duncan Bullen, University of Brighton
©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock All rights reserved.
Some years ago, I was making a set of lithographic prints with Andrew Purches at
his Senefelder workshop in West Sussex. One day we had cause to go to his house to
collect some crayons, paper, or some other material that we needed. We went into
his home, Andrew went off to look for the materials, while I waited in the sitting
room. On the wall was a drawing by the artist Alan Reynolds. The drawing held me
captive and I talked non-
Modular Study -
Modular Study -
Each part of a Reynolds drawing carefully reflects the whole; each dark, dark-
Describing the making of the drawings, Michael Harrison describes the importance Reynolds attached to a particular type of drawing paper, and the process for attaching the paper to card. Once this specific preparation was complete, the methodical marking of the surface with different grades of pencil would begin. Reynolds’ aim was to achieve an even tone for each unit of the drawing “by touch and eye” (2011 p. 163) and in which “the artist's hand can always be seen” (2001 p.1). It is precisely the understated quality of these structures, coupled with the tactility of the pencil markings, that sets up a perfect tension between distance and intimacy, allowing the viewer to dwell on the material syntax of the work. The intimacy is found in the autographic rendering of the surfaces that are made by hand and can, of course, be read as an extension of the artist's personality. The hard edges, the absence of illusionistic space, and the use of geometric structures and a logic internal to itself, set this work at a remove from any form of expression or representation.
For Reynolds, “the operative word is distance … it's the making of the thing -
One can argue that drawing is the technique best suited to realise this fine balance between distance and intimacy. Drawing particularly requires a direct and physical process, however austere and restrained: the connection between the idea, the hand and the drawing material are paramount. David Rosand sees drawing in terms of phenomenology and as a “fundamental pictorial act” in which “to make a mark or trace a single line upon a surface immediately transforms that surface, energizes its neutrality; the graphic imposition turns the flatness of the ground into virtual space, translates its material reality …” (2002 p. 1)
Reynolds pursued Modular Studies until the late 1990s, mostly square, but occasionally rectangular, before setting forth with a new set of equally excellent pencil studies, called Rotations. Like the Rotation Reliefs, which were made in parallel to the works on paper, they display perfectly Reynolds’ conception of “Light the transformer of white. White the vehicle for the colour of light” (2011 p. 136).
Reynolds’ use of the word ‘operative’ is also telling, in that it implies a pragmatic,
operational approach to making and indeed mark-
The work I have the pleasure to live with is modest in size; as Harrison suggests,
Reynolds “shied away from any grandeur or heroism … preferring ‘domesticity of scale’
in which the artwork is a ‘one-
Juda, David, Harrison, Michael, Pfleger, Susanne, Robertson, Bryan, Reynolds, Alan
2019 Alan Reynolds: A Small Retrospective, Works from 1951-
Harrison, M., 2011 Alan Reynolds: The Making of a Concretist Artist, Lund Humphries, Ashgate Publishing.
Petherbridge, Deanna, 2013 Narratives of Arrival and Resolution: Abstract Works on Paper; Belinda Cadbury, Sarah Cawkwell, Wendy Smith, Alison Turnbull, Art Space Gallery, Michael Richardson Contemporary Art, London.
Pfleger, Susanne, 2001 Alan Reynolds: New Reliefs and Drawings, Annely Juda Fine Art, London.
Rosand, David, 2002 Drawing Acts: Studies in Graphic Expression and Representation, Cambridge University Press.
The 4th floor is given over entirely to work produced after Reynolds turned away from painting, and away from his substantial reputation, to focus instead on drawings, woodcuts and constructed reliefs. In doing so, he “had to learn a new craft” (2011 p.80).
Alan Reynolds ‘Pastoral -
The work that hangs in my front room is a typical example of the drawn work to be
found on the 4th floor of Annely Juda. While the white reliefs and small woodcuts
sit perfectly in the context of Reynolds’ original investigation, it is Reynolds’
work with pencil on paper that particularly intrigues me. Drawing, with its associations
with tradition and the artist's hand (and personality), was not a go-
Modular Study -
This particular investment in the hand-
Installation view of ‘A Small Retrospective: Works from 1951-