Form and Volume
I curated a show at CF Hill in Stockholm about contemporary painting with the following artists Rhys Coren, Paulina Olowska, Friedrich Kunath, Paul P, Peter Davies, Sigrid Holmwood and Annie Morri. The gallery produced a lovely little catalogue with a forward by Jennifer Higgie. It runs until June 30 and I've interspersed images in the introduction below!
Form and Volume
The word ‘form’ is innately intertwined with aesthetics. The Latin forma meant shape, appearance, outline, beauty. By the 14th century ‘form’ was an idea discussed in Platonic philosophy. Here, the essence of a thing was its form. Volume, in contrast, is a word emerged with the rise of the bound books, referring to parchment scrolls and the mass and bulk created by rolls (volvere) of the printed word. These two concepts establish a starting point to examine the breadth of contemporary painting.
Painting is, obviously, part of a larger conversation beyond its medium. As Avigail Moss and Kerstin Stakemeier noted in their introduction to ‘The Implicit Horizon’, there are “tensions and ambiguities inherent in painting: painting as object, as context, as discourse”. The works here aim to start a conversation about how the representation of solidity, of volume, of the forms that emerge in images.
The form within ‘formalism’ hovers over these works, yet the idea of reading an art object purely by its visual aspects, by an artist’s approach to colour, shape, line, texture and so on, feels out of step with the now. Nick Zangwill’s concept of ‘moderate formalism’ expanded on in ‘The Metaphysics of Beauty’ is perhaps more apt; “A moderate formalist thinks, first, that all the aesthetic properties of works of art in a select class are formal, and second, that although many works of art outside that class have nonformal aesthetic properties, many of those works also have important formal aesthetic properties that must not be ignored." Paintings can be judged to represent something, and these aesthetic attributes are vital, but do not sit outside of context. The medium of paint carries a heavy mantle of history.
The eight artists in this exhibition create work that can be defined as painting. The pigment covered sculptural balls by Annie Morris and the laser-cut marquetry compositions by Rhys Coren being notable examples of how far painting has come from the canvas. What holds these works together is how the different artists attempt to represent the idea of solidity or volume. These paintings, whether overtly figurative or abstract or muddily in habiting the space in between, show how artists have pushed to show the fullness of a thing.
The works include paintings of abstract shapes, as in Peter Davies and Scott Treleaven’s approaches to colour blocks, ripped or scrawled contours. There are the formal the human body in Paul P’s portraits and Paulina Olowska’s mannequin-like bodies draped in the folds of patterned dresses. These are paintings aware of their weight, fatness, depth and roundness. Or they highlight the layers of representation itseld, deconstructing the form of painting as in Sigrid Holmwood’s peasant figures and Freidrich Kunath’s painting. The works here dip into the history of painting in the past century and look at the representation of imagery, of style, of shape, with new eyes.