BEYOND THE FIELD (STILL)

Samara Adamson-Pinczewski, Eun Ju Cho, Michael Graeve, Neil Haddon, Sara Hughes, Benjamin Kluss, Jacob Leary, Suzanne Moss, Frank Murri, Joshua Reilly, Ron Roberson-Swann, Paul Snell, Wilma Tabacco, Tricky Walsh, Stephen Wickham, Carolyn Wigston and Paul Zika

The Field was the title of an exhibition held at the NGV in 1968. The impetus for Beyond the Field (still) (BTFS) is the re-staging of The Field in 2018 as The Field Revisited – commemorating its 50th anniversary. The Field was a prismatic exhibition comprised of hard edge, geometric, colour-field, minimalist and conceptual paintings and sculptures, which I am choosing to call Reductive Abstraction. BTFS exhibits current work that demonstrates the active, evolving and persistent nature of Reductive Abstraction, including that of an original Field participant, Ron Robertson-Swann. The artworks are shown across two venues: the Moonah Arts Centre and Contemporary Art Tasmania.

The seventeen artists participating in BTFS have fabricated diverse works from a wide range of abstract thoughts and influences such as architecture, mathematics (algorithms, geometry, number theory, and data networks) light, pattern, pastiche, the landscape of LGBTIQ persons, process, colour, collage, sound and spatial ambiguity. The mediums utilised and manipulated include lights, sound, wood, cotton, cardboard, paint, Perspex, paper, pencil, and digital imaging.

Reductive art is said to be non-figurative and non-representative, and yet these works offer an echo of interior personal experience apprehended sensually in expressions of colour, space, form, light, facture and timbre that refuse to offer a story. Each work embodies the (abstract) thought process of the artist and yet neither narrator nor narrative is present – only a lingering sense that the object is personal.

Reductive art objects are real in a material sense and also virtual – they are both actual objects and objects of the imagination. There are two forms of imagination at play here: the conceptual (abstract thought and ideas) and the material (engagement with the process of making and its relationship to the materiality of the mediums). Despite being static objects, these works present a quasi-stillness that compels you to add to your visual perception, temporally, in order to make a sensorial associative collage. There is often physical and sensual energy at work, a kind of primary experience.

Richard Wollheim describes this experience as a ‘correspondence’ between the mind and the art object. In his ‘physical-object hypothesis’, Wollheim theorises that these objects contain an expression of the artist’s inner state – referred to as ‘natural expression’ – as well as the capability to express the subjective experience of the perceiver. To have a subjective experience with artwork is to demonstrate that it is capable of expression.

In BTFS, small artworks such as Cho’s allow for an intimate, peering-into relationship with the object while larger artworks such as those by Kluss, Reilly and Haddon facilitate a bodily and spatial interaction. The colours used range from nearly pure white to nearly pure black, as in the paintings of Suzanne Moss and Stephen Wickham, both of which contain subsumed colours that become apparent after a prolonged gaze. Several multi-coloured works conjure memories of place and time, and others combine colours to create an optical effect of shifting depths, as in Adam-Pinczewski’s use of interference paint and Leary’s paper constructions.

Many of these artworks are made up of multiple parts – either separately assembled or embedded as a repetition of fragments that may confound the gaze. In observing Tabacco’s work, it seems natural to attempt to perceive an association between what is depicted on the multiple panels and conceive it as a whole. Fragmentation also operates in the undoing of geometric formulations by the visible spontaneous marks in Walsh’s painting. Nearly half of the artworks can be considered object paintings, which in their construction enact the various perspectives of objectness rather than presenting a singular surface plane. For example, there is a reflection of colour behind Zika’s work as well as across the object’s multi-faceted surface.

Reductive Abstraction, as shown in BTFS, both compels and demonstrates an engagement with an open field of abstract possibilities, an experience through which you can be struck with wonder and the awareness of being aware.