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Tricking yourself: a review by Laurence Noga
Finbar Ward at Saatchi Gallery/ Fold Gallery New Order II, Saatchi Gallery, London.
Fold Gallery -
I first encountered the work of Finbar Ward at Wimbledon College of Art, where he studied in 2010. The work then, as now, was rich from a phenomenological viewpoint. But as Ward recently stated in our recent talk at APT studios In Deptford, the work very much has its own memory.
In our conversation at APT and at Saatchi a couple of months ago, Ward was keen to
pinpoint the work of Phillip Guston as a pivotal influence on the practice, particularly
the deep use of destruction in his work, and importantly, the tragedy of human experience.
When I encountered Dispenser (240x55x120 cm) at the Saatchi Gallery I was immediately
struck by the mysterious presence, and the level of absence, in the chamber-
On walking around the work there is an anxiety in the deconstruction and re-
When I think about the last tower, In the red (88x11x17cm), which is fastened to the wall, I am reminded of the work of Angela de La Cruz, and her methods of revealing and concealing the stretcher or supports. Pink fleshy oil on linen is soaked into the surface, seeping its colour into the fabric. Other small structural removals, placed at the top of the monument, set a contemplative tone, pushing a more bodily sense of entombment.
This seeping of the colour into the space is particularly successful in Phthalo blue diptych (133x64x23cm, 200x85x11cm). These works are cleaner, and sharpen a ‘sudden density’ in the space. The phthalo blue has been more evenly layered on, and the space between the works produces a morbid tension. The sign of disruption, orchestrated by the cadmium red oil dots near the edge of the structures, adds something that is erotic and uncertain.
Ward is able to construct an installation that the viewer cannot predict, allowing a residue of time to leak into the space. There is a deep sense of nostalgia through the significance of the colour relationships and the interplay of conversation between the forms, propelling you into a place where surprising and unexpected things happen. He wants, like Guston, to create a particular kind of look that somehow parallels life.
Laurence Noga, August 2014
The element of tragedy is formalised in The space between things. The first Van Dyck brown tower (228cm) has a playful ‘De Chirico’ humour, anchored by its concrete base. The second tower (225cm) has been deconstructed, sliced, its base left intact, with folded, coloured canvas stapled to the concrete. This frustrating and peculiar moment introduces us to a disturbing world at the top of the towers that we can’t quite see or get to. Elements from the other paintings sit like a strange citadel, conjuring things in your mind.
Extending the experience -
False Start (other half) 2014: Oil and gloss on linen, wood, concrete wash, staples, nails. 40x28x4cm, 40x28x6cm
Ward showed me his small sketchbooks. These are important as a starting point; the fast, diagrammatic, emotive drawings initially dictate the work at a very fast pace, but like Guston, Ward wants to trick himself out of knowing how he gets there. The site, and his reaction to that space, often seems to need a tragic atmosphere.
When I visited Fold Gallery, I felt the work had a deeper level of anxiety than at Saatchi. The reason for this is partly intuitive, but the notion of the peripheral is a key component. This feeling of unease is pushed by the armature or structures in the work. False start (40x28x4cm, 40x28x6cm) is a diptych that is hung in a double mirroring of the situation, which you cannot see because the glossy surface is smeared, buckled and burnt. The phenomenological ingredients are juxtaposed to create a powerful impulse in the viewer.
The ambiguity in the work draws the viewer into the objectification in the structure; there is a feeling of an effigy contained within it. Its weight is heightened by the embedded concrete slab. The atmosphere from the engagement with its own colour (both acrylic and oil) is finely tuned. The density of the pigment embedded in the internal canvas, which sits snugly inside this banal structure, is in direct counterpoint to the flatly painted cadmium orange canvas that juts into the space, alluding to our senses, and to a world that exists outside the work.
The levels of strata in these chambers further accentuate the metaphysical plane on which the work exists. The architectural relationship with the space in both Tomb II and Chamber focuses the viewer more deeply towards a sense of their making. Tomb II has a closed lid, the smell of the distemper is evident, and the concrete is doubled at its base. Chamber allows its lid to slide back to reveal the ground beneath, using its own shadow to cast an uncanny glow. Its authenticity, which seems humble yet total, opens up the possibility, as Ward says, of ‘heroic failure’. The smaller sleepers indicate a further connotation in this taut psychological environment.
Rising Triangle 2014 : Oil on board and linen, concrete wash, staples. 43x21x4cm
Untitled, 2014: Oil on linen and wood, 30x22x8cm
Chamber (Phthalo blue painting) 2013: oil, spray paint, linen, wood, concrete, dust sheet and staples
180x90x50 cm, Image courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery, Photography © Sam Drake
Untitled (phthalo blue diptych), 2014:Acrylic on linen, oil, graphite, staples. 133x64x23cm, 200x85x11cm
In the red, 2014: Oil on linen, gloss, wood, canvas, staples. 88x11x17cm
The space between things, 2014: Oil on linen and wood, gloss, emulsion , concrete, nails
Dispenser, 2013, acrylic, oil, gloss, linen, wood, concrete, caulk, dust sheet, staples.
240x55x120cm, image courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery, photography © Sam Drake 2014.
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