Sam Cornish, editor of Abstract Critical, the UK based website dedicated to abstract painting and sculpture, recently posted that the site will stop publication. This is sad news to anyone interested in abstract painting and sculpture. Since January 2011 the site has published thoughtful, long-form reviews, opinion pieces, and videos.
While quality content is crucial to the success of any site, a regular publishing cadence is also important. Abstract Critical had both, a fact which made me and many others regular visitors. While commenting has been integral to blogs since their inception, Abstract Critical cultivated an atmosphere conducive to debate. While they may not quite have achieved a Cedar Bar of the internet, they succeeded more than most blogs in fomenting discussion of all sorts, from the bitingly critical to friendly banter exchanged amongst frequent commenters.
Sam Cornish and Robin Greenwood are to be particularly commended for their efforts to make Abstract Critical a vital source of criticism and discussion around the topic of abstraction. Not only did both contribute a significant amount of writing to the site, but their efforts to spur conversation around the articles (no small task) was and is greatly appreciated.
Although no new content will be added, existing articles will remain online. The Abstract Critical Twitter account will also remain active and The Brancaster Chronicles, an ongoing series of transcribed studio visits, will also continue to be published as a new site.
Cornish’s last post to Abstract Critical featured some of his favorite articles from the site. Since Painters’ Table has featured many pieces from Abstract Critical I thought I would contribute fifteen recommendations of my own. This selection only scratches the surface of what is available at Abstract Critical, but any of the articles below constitutes an excellent launch point for perusing this resource.
Best wishes to the Abstract Critical team and thanks for a job well done.
Lorraine Rubio interviews painter Gillian Ayres on the occasion of an upcoming exhibition at Alan Cristea Gallery, London, on view from April 16 – May 30, 2015.
Ayres comments: "There are many artists whose work I admire—Miro and Picasso especially—but really too many to list. Ultimately though, although I may admire an artists’ work, theirs doesn’t directly influence my own. I live and work surrounded by nature, and, in some way I suppose, that filters into the work, although not in a figurative way. The paintings are not a direct response to any particular moment or subject, and I don’t expect people to all have the same feeling when looking at them. Like looking at art, what inspires one is very personal, and sometimes one doesn’t know or doesn’t want to reveal where it comes from."
Robin Greenwood writes about an exhibition of paintings by Gillian Ayresat Jerwood Gallery, Hastings, on view through November 25, 2012.
Greenwood notes: "Far from concentrating upon their own materiality, I very much like the fact that these works are really quite modest and meagre in their use of paint, judicious in the means of manufacture, and refreshingly sparing in their use of colour. The varied thinness of the paint is one very keen factor in their spaciousness; it is undoubtedly this quality of spaciousness which is the key attribute of these works. It is a spaciousness which at its best is not born of depiction or descriptiveness, but of an intentional and progressive abstract-ness. What makes this not only a very good show, but also a very interesting show, is the fact that you can follow the nurturing of this quality, and the subtle but distinct shift of Ayres accomplishments as a painter which over a two or three year period brings it about."
He continues: "One of the things that struck me looking at these paintings is how little they make one aware of a picture plane; how very unflat they are; how very un-graphic in every sense; and yet, how true to the integrity of the painted surface. The spaces herein are not wrought out of illusionistic ambiguities, but from plastic certainties."
This 1988 video interview with Ayres by Geoffrey Robinson (below) was recently re-edited for the web. During this extended look into the artist's studio, viewers see Ayres at work and hear her thoughts on painting. She remarks:
"Painting is about the area or size of the canvas you choose and how you relate marks on that area... you're doing area against area of color. On that area, this chosen area, the thing has to work. It doesn't only have to work... one hopes it touches the soul... at the end of it. It has to do a lot more things at the end of the line but it also does have to work visually in that way. Perhaps surprise too, and shock... I mean in those areas of color, I don't mean shock in an other sort of literal way. I mean within itself... It probably sets up moods, it probably sets up poetry... it has to do lots of things, but you still only read it as it's put down, as these marks."
Victoria Webb looks at the gestural work of several painters including Elisabeth Cummings, Anne Smart, Alan Gouk, and Gillian Ayres.
All of the works all exhibit a preference for "high chroma with an abstract and gestural bent," and Webb notes with appreciation Gillian Ayres' remark that "using oil paint is like working with messy and greasy, colored lard."
David Moxon posts a 1988 video of Gillian Ayres in 1988 by Geoffrey Robinson on the occasion of the exhibition Gillian Ayres at Arnolfini Gallery on view through July 11, 2011. The video shows Ayres painting and talking about abstraction and her work. Ayres says abstraction is "very clearly the energy of the [20th] century, it's the the force of the century..."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.