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The curatorial and editorial project for systems, non-objective and reductive artists working in the UK

Website: Chestnuts Design

Perpetual Arrival


Platform A Gallery, Middlesbrough. 28 Sept - 9 Nov 2023


A review by Annie O’Donnell

©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock  All rights reserved.

Late September in the North East marks the arrival of the annual Middlesbrough Art Week. The town’s art spaces, and a host of temporary venues, are busy with a programme of work from more than 120 international, national and local artists. This year, responding to the theme ‘Measure’, the artists share their understanding of time. Some events take place on a single evening under a noisy underpass; others, such as Perpetual Arrival at Platform-A Gallery at the railway station, arrive and stay beyond the festival, encouraging visitors to come and go repeatedly. This approach is no flash in the pan; Saturation Point and the gallery have a long-term working relationship through exhibition making. In Perpetual Arrival, artist curators Eric Butcher, Patrick Morrissey and Hanz Hancock bring together a group show that plays with the rhythm of the studio, celebrating it as a continuum where ‘what constitutes an arrival is arbitrary or ephemeral’.


Platform-A’s entrance space is an obsession of mine, linking as it does the main station platform with the gallery, and compressing the relationships between the works within it. It is a small place for the shrugging-off of the distractions of rail announcements and passenger baggage. Here, Silvia Lerin’s dark ply and metal Burden (2018) is the first work encountered, pointing inwards and outwards, its folds suggesting a struggle with directions and decisions. Nearby hangs one of Isabel Albrecht’s two works in the show, Untitled (Z2) (2011), a drawing in ink and watercolour, where calm, soft greys are stacked like a timetable, or perhaps shadows on a pre-cast concrete facia.


Through the double doors to the main space, I am drawn to the tall, comedic, twin pillars of Michael Samuels’ Constant Square Peg Round Hole 1 & 2 Birch Ply (2023). Ply sentinels, they stand on the reconfigured metal legs of Modernist furniture; they have pencil markings and coloured dowels, and large circular holes to peer through. I use them to squint at Neo-Neo Concrete 38 (2019), an acrylic and concrete work by David Batchelor, from a series relating to Brazilian (Neo)-Concreto movements, spilling colour and circles across the gallery floor.

Morrissey & Hancock’s Arwoedh Rudh (2011) forms an intricate but definite ‘X marks the spot’ in acrylic on plastic and paper, contrasting with their Rotational Series (2017) close by, a drawing of geometric permutations, connecting with ideas of arrivals at more scattered destinations. Meanwhile, Cluster (2018) by Nathan Cohen, a layered gathering of monochrome MDF X-forms, seems to evidence of a game of ‘Pin the Tail on the (Creative) Donkey’. On the same wall, Rana Begum’s two small painted aluminium panels, No. 1311 (2023), are divided into precise vertical and horizontal sections in reds, blues and purples. Thinking about physical journeys, I read them as the livery of train rolling stock and realise that the beautiful, blurred bands and stripes of colour in Mark Francis’ large oil painting Trip Mix (2023), at the other end of the gallery, are also morphing into the patterns of train carriage upholstery. The context of the station’s own arrivals and departures is a strong pull.


On the short wall at right angles to the windows, Mikael Fagerlund’s Mobile Drawings Siri (93ac0c) (2018) forms a jointed zigzag of rods of clear acrylic, which causes their bright, colourful painted edges to float above the surface of the white wall, and forms material allegiances with the work of David Batchelor close by. Its neighbour, Head of Movement (2017) by Andy Harper appears deeply complicated in comparison. Sweeping gestural brushstrokes resembling Persian calligraphy, feathers or leaves seem to slip across a highly detailed ground, where multiple vanishing points push and pull the geometric mark-making out into the gallery. The curatorial play with the sizes of the works along this wall – Fagerlund, Harper, Morrissey & Hancock – is a particular joy.

Across the gallery, Jyll Bradley’s Fingers (2022) are two small works humming with blurry, spray-painted colour, and repeated motifs of circles and arrows that might indicate ‘directions of travel’ through, or to, points within the works, or perhaps represent the Mars/male symbol. Sometimes, these are partially masked with bands of stronger colour, and the motifs, on carbon paper mounted on aluminium, somehow lend the works a larger scale. Opposite, Eric Cruikshank’s painting, C-022 (2022), is a gorgeous colour field of amorphous grey, lilac and peach. It seems to pierce a window through the wall to Teesside’s big skies, dense with sea fret and vague autumn sun.

 


Finally, co-curator Eric Butcher’s T/R 1008 (2022) stands as testament to his recent physical and conceptual deconstruction of his existing paintings. By dissecting their elements to determine what is essential to his own creative ‘natural history’, he seeks an ‘endgame’ (that might yet be endless). Together with a taxonomy of destruction, here Butcher presents the resulting fragments of paint skins like fragile entomological specimens between sheets of glass. The blue, green and purple traces, bearing the striations of their removal, and casting shadows that complicate their outlines, epitomise the sense ‘of departing, travelling, arriving and moving on’ as do all the works in Perpetual Arrival.

The artist as creative refugee.

Outside the large windows, the prefabs and machinery of ongoing building work add their own flashes of colour. Visible too, on a pillar between the windows, are Weather Diary 2 (2021) and 1 Cipher Series: The Taming of the Shrew (2022) by Eleanor Wood. These reworked 20th century books contain exquisite grids of pencil, oil and piercings on waxed paper that draw me closer in an attempt to decipher them. On the long opposite wall, the shiny MDF faces of the rectangular components of Thomas Vinson’s New Order (glossy) (2019) appear interchangeable, perhaps like a sliding puzzle toy. The dark gaps between the pieces stand out precisely and yet are disturbed by the differing depths of the elements and the chipboard edges of the work.

All photos courtesy of Rachel Deakin