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Trevor Sutton | Small World
Zuleika Gallery, Woodstock, 26 August – 27 September 2021
A review by Jeremy Morgan
©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock All rights reserved.
Trevor Sutton’s Small World at Zuleika Gallery, Woodstock, is described as a show of two halves – work made before and work made after the Covid outbreak. As such, the show is something of an odyssey, tracing as it does Sutton’s journey through the exceptional circumstances of this defining event.
Entering the gallery via the entrance hall, one is greeted by two square paintings.
Resident Ghost (1 and 2) mirror each other across the space – coloured isosceles
triangles delineating their corners, acting as markers that lead the eye outwards.
This is rather a surprise, marking a significant shift from the grids and modulated
grounds of Sutton’s more ambient, atmospheric work. The aesthetic is fresh, hard-
Left: Resident Ghost 2, 2021, oil on board, 38 x 38 cm; right: Reflection 1,2,3,4, 2021, oil on board, painting in four parts, each 25.5 x 21.5 cm, installed with 4 cm spacing between each panel installed dimensions 25.5 x 92 cm
Hung at shoulder height, Reflection 1,2,3,4, is a painting in four parts employing
the repeated motif of twin coloured bars on light pink fields, variously locked to
the horizontal and the vertical edges, holding the inner space. Elsewhere, this compositional
enclosure might create an inertia or a barrier, but here the quadtych-
Five small pieces, Looking Back (1 to 5), also occupy this space, hung as a row, providing a playful, rather informal entrée. Variously coloured triangular shards of painted paper are collaged to the edges of white triangular supports, their brush marks and subtle staining emphasised by the minimal presentation. In contrast to the regular geometry of Resident Ghost, the painted shards are of varying angles and proportions and therefore occupy differing lengths of shoreline along their triangular islands. There’s an acrobatic dynamism to these pieces too – a rotational movement around the inner voids with elements spinning to the edge of the picture plane and beyond, a little frivolity to accompany the visitor over the threshold into the main gallery.
Looking Back (2, 3 and 4), 2020, oil on paper on 12 mm white Corian, each 15 x 20 cm (triangle)
Here, four diptychs are hung, two to a wall, chromatically and thematically sympathetic
to their neighbours. The higher coloured pair were painted in response to a residency
in the Midi-
Study For Nyons, 2019, oil on board, 23 x 61 cm (diptych)
Shutter Painting is constructed from three storeys of symmetrical elements. Beguiling shifts in colour space are evident: for instance, in the upper two opposing modules nominally finished in the same light stone under which a darker salmon pink is just discernible on the right side, gently warming things. The specificity of such interventions encourages a consideration of the artist’s intention. Such modulations in colour and surface are important to Sutton, bringing richness, warmth and evidence of the maker’s hand. ”I want to let air into the work” as Sutton puts it, suspicious of too perfect or opaque a finish acting as a barrier between viewer and work.
Orkney Painting 1, 2019, oil on board, 63.5 x 127 cm (diptych)
On the facing wall hang two more diptychs. Orkney Painting 1 is the largest work
in the show, where columns in hazy mauves and muted greys (painted with Sutton’s
deft and unfussy handling so that there is ‘just enough’ of the artist’s hand present
whilst maintaining a fresh, near-
Installation view, various, oil on paper on 12 mm white Corian, watercolour on paper on 12 mm white Corian
Turning to face the back wall reveals an extraordinary sight. Here are fixed a dazzling
cornucopia of brightly coloured jewel-
Left: Night Triangle 1, 2020, watercolour on paper on 12 mm white Corian, 17 x 13 cm; centre: Voewood 5/3, 2020, oil on paper on 12 mm white Corian, 10 x 20 cm; right: The Japanese Garden 1, 2021, oil on paper on 12 mm Corian, 6.5 x 13 cm.
There’s a playfulness and a restlessness here in which a multitude of chromatic and
formal possibilities are tested and fine-
“Everything I made was on a small and intimate scale which, I became aware, was as much related to Roger’s work as it was to the confines of my workspace”. Sutton began to respond to the exterior and interior architecture of the house, creating series such as The Japanese Garden and The Coach House, both of which are included in the grouping. The curation in four rows, rationalised into groups of common shapes, is suggestive of a taxonomy (is it stretching things to see these as beautiful, geometric butterflies?). The colours are rich, though never loud or harsh; warm terracottas, ochres and greys flirting with brighter pale yellows and creamy whites in an elaborate display ritual, echoing something of the changing seasons that Sutton and his companions experienced as they sheltered.
Ballycastle 1A, 2015, oil on paper, 20.5 x 15cm (framed in Perspex).
Stepping down into the partially wood-
Time is also referenced in other works, suggesting it did on occasion weigh heavily.
Nothing But Time and A Pocket of Time were both painted in 2021, yet feel like continuations
from the Orkney works, picking up where things were left before the interruption
of Covid. Lintels are now joined by similar foundation-
Left: A Pocket Of Time, 2021, oil on board, 38 x 38 cm; right: Nothing But Time, 2021, oil on board, 38 x 38 cm.
A Time of Silence (1 and 2) are kindred to the Resident Ghost works, though now compressed into a vertical rectangular form, the grounds rendered in zings of fresh lemon and tangerine. Sutton has extended the logic of this compressed format to the corner flashes, which are rendered as elongated scalene triangles, fixing the dimensions unequivocally to their extremities and creating an implied zone of protection around each work. The vibrancy of the colour is at odds with the calmness of the title, however, suggesting an inner constraint, a desire to burst forth from this silent, small world – a desire now beautifully realised in this exquisite show.