exercises

 images and text

 

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P1020703aImage courtesy Mary Ramsden and Pilar Corrias

 

P1020753aImage courtesy Mary Ramsden and Pilar Corrias

 

P1020749aImage courtesy Mary Ramsden and Pilar Corrias

 

P1020636aImage courtesy Mary Ramsden and Pilar Corrias

 

P1020631aImage courtesy Mary Ramsden and Pilar Corrias

 

 P1020634aImages courtesy Mary Ramsden and Pilar Corrias

 

Exercise as an activity that aims to improve physical, technical or mental performance is not immediately associated with the practice of painting. It is foremost repetitive – mindlessly so – and despite Duchamp’s well-known phrase “stupid as a painter,” painters do not like to think of themselves as stupid. Nevertheless exercise also demands a deeper understanding of the activity requiring improvement and here lies the question behind the exhibition: what can be exercised in painting? What must be determined before embarking on a future exercise programme?

The exhibition “exercises” brings together two artists, Jenny Forster (b. 1979, Germany) and Mary Ramsden (b. 1984, Harrogate, England) precisely because they take these questions as a starting point for their practice. Both painters produce their abstract compositions analytically, breaking down painting to its constituent components before exercising them separately. For the exhibition Mary Ramsden shows a series of smaller works on panel together with one small canvas. These consist of as little as one or two black marks, some partially erased, hovering above a sweep of off-white glossy paint. Her work’s characteristic tension between doing and undoing is created through the slightest of shifts in intensity or scale. In contrast, Jenny Forster works with a much wider range of elements. Her three large paper pieces include multi-coloured ink swirls, dramatic cuts and smudges of pastel. Unlike Ramsden, Forster also engages with painting’s capacity for illusion, treating the traditional perspective of her sources as yet another element in need of potential exercise. She does however share Ramsden’s concern with the processes of doing and undoing, often wiping or cutting away painted elements to reveal the ground underneath. Ramsden might cut out and paste a single black piece of paper; Forster carves up and recombines large parts of her work. If the ink swirls and watercolour drips of Forster’s pieces seem almost accidental this collage technique lends the work control. The need for control is also present in Ramsden practice, but here it is more apparent in the repetition of certain elements and gestures.

Magdalena Wisniowska 2017

 

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