Preview | Fathoms Fragments Fieldwork
Featuring three of the South West's most exciting contemporary artists, this masterful exhibition would not look out of place at Tate Modern or MoMA. In fact it's in a former primary school in the Dartmoor National Park.
Fathoms Fragments Fieldwork is a bold display of abstraction that is as rich and considered as any exhibition of literal representation. Joyful palettes and bold experimentation catch the eye, and yet there is an unsettling undercurrent to the work that reflects the harsh moorland surrounding Green Hill Arts, a thriving cultural centre in Moretonhampstead, Devon.
'I like the near blacks,'says Mark Jessett, the artist behind Fragments, 'colours that appear to be a true black but on closer inspection are a dark blue, or brown or green.' In fact, black is almost entirely absent from Jessett's work, which greets the viewer with a celebratory show of colour. It is a testament to the sincere optimism of these paintings that even when Jessett seems to employ black, perhaps as a balance or counterpoint to his 'favourites': peaches, yellows and pinks, that darkness is a gentle trick; there is colour there, and even a little light.
Unsurprisingly, Fragments have been selected as the lead images for the show's publicity: paintings such as 'Obscure Relic' (below) are inclusive and enticing, their springtime colours chiming with the season and national park setting. But to assume that this means that Jessett's work lacks depth would be a great mistake, as his nomenclature indicates: for every 'precious' a quantifying 'semi' and for every 'pageant' a 'chamber'.
Jessett, who studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths’ College, deftly holds contradictory ideas in tension throughout his work. In Fragments, soft organic forms contain shards in uncompromising hues, while beneath luminous feathery surfaces there is 'mess'. The artist speaks candidly about the 'imposition' of paint on to a board, but also of the 'iridescence' and wonder of the way a painting will 'reveal itself'.
'The objective,' says Robert Manners, creator of Fathoms, 'is to make something that is simultaneously itself and a metaphor for something else: something less easy to define.' The difficulty is articulated elegantly in the title of this show which attempts to understand and to depict the unknowable. 'The ambiguity between apparent depth and apparent solidity is intriguing,' Manners says, 'Fathoms explores structure and depth; impenetrable depth.'
Fathoms is a collection of deeply contemplative paintings composed of fluid configurations of Indian Ink on weighty watercolour paper. Not only do they succeed in creating a sense of depth, but even of being immersed in water - out of one's depth with something beneath the surface that may not be entirely benign.
Manners, a trained printmaker who has exhibited throughout the UK and abroad, demonstrates a gentle and tireless quest to reconfigure and to reconsider, edging ever closer to knowledge. Also on show this season is 'Under Construction Forever III' at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth. Formed of panels of various sizes, Under Construction Forever is re-assembled in different configurations each time it emerges, revealing a fascinating preoccupation with process and effort as an art in itself.
Seamus Staunton presents meticulous work that nears perfection in craft and composition. Minute stitches hold fabrics taut, exaggerating the line between colours in challenging juxtapositions while a consistent depth creates further intriguing interactions as the viewer moves around the gallery.
Influenced by mid-century american colour-field painters, Fieldwork brings the genre into the twenty-first century with materials that would not look out of place at Apple or Tesla, reducing the large canvas to a concentrated cuboid of saturated colour.
The alliterative title: Fathoms Fragments Fieldwork, lends a literary quality to this excellent exhibition, revealing a common dedication to the investigation of the limits of human understanding of the natural world whilst celebrating distinct interests and approaches.
Fathoms Fragments Fieldwork is showing until June 1st 2017 at Green Hill Arts, Moretonhampstead.