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Black Squares | Saturation Point | Sunday Salon 6
21 April 2019
A review by Clare French
©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock All rights reserved.
The Reductive Non-
RNOP was founded by Gruner in 2016 as a result of conversations held at the Biennale
Internationale d'Art Non Objectif in Grenoble, France. An awareness of groups of
Black Squares at Saturation Point is RNOP’s last European show. Two more shows, in Melbourne and Sydney, will take place over the (northern) summer, and RNOP will come to a close with the Grenoble biennale in November this year.
The participating artists in Black Squares were Jasper van der Graaf (NL), Thomas
Michael Stephens (US), Brigitte Parusel (UK), John Adair (AU/UK), Jeffrey Cortland-
RNOP is committed to the consideration of reductive, non-
All art work is inherently contemporary, in that it is able to respond to the ineluctable
presence of art history which hovers around it, only from the temporal location in
which it is made. Of course, much more complex (and equally deconstructable) evaluations
can be applied to a work or practice’s position on the spectrum from derivative to
innovative. But given the level to which Modernist, reductive and non-
As one of his many non-
Keighery’s squid ink and Popov’s fridge dust paintings spring immediately to mind. This sense of playfulness was mirrored in a curatorial process that produced a beautiful looking show, while remaining collaborative, experimental and fun. Adair’s black square exists only inside his white box, requiring one to look into its black circle. Certainly, the decision to hang it high, though partly aesthetic, was also done with a little chuckle at teasing the audience; forcing them to take Adair’s square on trust.
Composition is one of van der Aa’s many tools for subverting notions of purity and perfection. The black shape in his painting brings associations of some vaguely functional, everyday object ̶ a little table or chest perhaps, the back of a truck, or (upside down) an envelope of sorts. The two black ‘bits’ at the bottom of the painting could even be two squat little feet. One of my responses to this ambiguous, elusive possibility of mundane functionality within the clarity of van der Aa’s beautiful, beautifully made, ’perfectly minimal’ painting, is to giggle.
L to R: Dima Gred, Patrick Morrissey and Hanz Hancock © Clare French
Of course, this is not to imply that the show or any of the works lack seriousness, complexity or rigour. Popov, for example, deals with complex hierarchies of materials and temporality. But it may be useful to consider how the weight of our particular history can lend itself to operating simultaneously in other, lighter and perhaps less expected ways.
The artists here have responded to the theme with great variety, no-
Stipling’s dense resin painting counters any idea of iconic untouchability by looking
so sticky that everyone who helped hang it checked whether it was still wet before
touching it. What became known on the day as his ‘punk painting’ was all black,
though so shiny and reflective it was also all blacks. And being made from found
supports, wasn’t quite square. Neither was Keighery’s small black almost-
Covell refers most directly to Malevich’s Black Square, but using materials and processes that are completely hers, and contemporary. Her paintings’ position towards a bottom corner of the wall also subverts the famous 1915 curation of The Black Square in its high position as an icon. Morrissey and Hancock’s diptych expands (or undermines, or both?) a literal interpretation of the brief by using the addition of lines and white to break up the surface and space of their two perfect black squares.
As above, the visible elements of Adair’s piece are a black circle and a white cube. Stephens, Parusel, Morrissey and Hancock, Pederson, Vayda and van der Aa also incorporate white as an integral element of their black works, using it as a visual and symbolic mirror highlighting the black.
Theresa Poulton © Patrick Morrissey
Gred and van der Graaf present works of black marks on white paper. Neither the
paper nor their constructed black marks are square, nor even, in van der Graaf’s
case, straight lines. Pederson paints white outlines of roughly triangular shapes
onto her black surface. Nothing in Parusel’s complex drawn and folded works is square,
and they include pencil. Cortland-
L to R: Brigitte Parusel, John Adair, Jeffrey Cortland-
Black Squares met RNOP’s two primary aims. It was an aesthetically and conceptually
cohesive show, leaving little doubt as to its theme. That it simultaneously celebrated
such a rich multiplicity of materials, marks and methods reflects the possibilities
of reductive, non-