Taking its title from a group of works by Gerda Scheepers, ‘Inside Arrangement’ includes the work of five artists who have painting as central to their practice. The show focuses on what can be described as ‘disrupted abstraction;’ which is to say the artist’s use of particular motifs, objects and symbols to interrupt or re-work imagery and composition. A particular facet of this is figuration. In these works the figure does not solely function as a representation of human form or character but additionally as a device for abstraction and disruption.
John Finneran has described his use of the figure as a means to ‘steady the increasingly expressionist and abstract elements’ in his works. For Finneran his depictions of spiritual signs, shapes and isolated corporeal forms, exist on the same plain as the female forms that populate his paintings, each included to describe or document an abstract thought process. As Finneran further describes, ‘painting is thought manifested as a reality – not the thing but the act of recognizing the thing and its relation to ourselves.’
The figures here do not exist as visions or manifestations but as an anchor for the painterly absraction that surrounds them. The forms in his works are recognisable but their significance is not always clear, they remain mysterious and as painting has the ability to do; logic, impliction and constraint are abandoned.
Jonathan Gardner’s nudes nod to amongst others, Ingres, Picabia, Gnoli and Magritte with each work presenting a very particular tableau of images and symbols. Similar to the citrus fruits placed in the foregrounds, the books on tables or shoes resting on carpets, the nudes are highly styilized, with each object and figure having the same importance and existing in the same realm. For Gardner it is important that these ‘objects’ exist as blank slates upon which he can insert his own idiosyncrasies, interests and references and therefore the figures are void of personality, functioning in the same way as a brushmark or abstract motif.
Visually there is a relationship between Gardner and the work of John McAllister, with each merging the ‘subjects’ of their paintings so as to create an abstracted picture plain. In McAllister’s pieces, interiors and still lives dissolve into pattern and brushmark. Though the interiors are familiar to him, they are re-imagined and are drawn mainly from a glossary of motifs and imagery that is much more recognizable as McAllister’s own style than any familiar space. Patterned rugs, wallpapers, ceramics and fabrics interloop and converge with foliage, windows and doorways and we are offered not only a selection of still lives but a representation of painting and composition itself.
Gerda Scheepers applys imagery as short-hand for both her own art making process and specific signs and figurations. Content and formal elements of painting are remixed through cut, copy and paste with the results actively pursuing ambiguity. Often working within series or groupings of work, Scheepers creates environments for motifs and gestures. Her work concentrates on the narrative possibilities of visual works and their ability to convey content and information and like Finneran, references the capacity of symbolism and iconography to contain psychological and emotional information.
By depicting her notes for making, exhibition plans, sketches, views from her studio or imagined scenarios and then arranging these motifs and marks into ornamental and minimal designs, Scheepers creates a very personal exploration into symbols and signs. Included here are a group of new ceramic works, which Scheepers describes as sculpture/image hybrids. Although not referencing the figure directly in her imagery, Scheepers, her friends and her working and living environments are ever present and it is these traces which we become to privy to here.
Like Scheepers, Sam Windett does not deal directly with figuration, instead producing still-life assemblies in his studio; painted cut circles, paper curls, loops of card, which Windett sets up creating tableaus upon which he bases his paintings. As a result we are privy to a private process of making, a part of producing which is often hidden. In recent works Windett has ‘zoomed’ into sections of these set-ups, producing large explorations into colour and brushmark. In a sense these works become even more like ‘studies in composition’ than previous works and in doing so, reference past paintings, seeming to act in some ways like an abstracted ‘painting within a painting,’ a common thread in many of the artists works included here. Windett has not only abstracted objects but also his own modes of making and finished works, and like McAllister, offers images of blended abstraction.