Robert Ryman at Dia:Chelsea


Robert Ryman, Catalyst lll 1985

An exhibition showing a wide range of Robert Ryman’s paintings occupies two large gallery spaces at Dia:Chelsea in New York. My visit to look at his beautiful work was on a grey and freezing wintery day in February. Vittorio Colaizzi quotes Ryman in an essay that introduces a collection of critical writings concerning his art, Ryman: ‘Painters paint in all kinds of ways, but I think that all painting is about enlightenment and delight and wonder’. (Originally published in Robert Ryman, ‘On Painting’, in Christel Sauer and Urs Rasmuller, 1991). In an interview with Ryman in September 2002, the artist who was then approaching his eightieth birthday, described a collector placing one of his paintings in the dark hallway of his home. Deprived of the light and space it needed, Ryman reflected ‘But it’s odd that they seemingly like the painting but yet they don’t understand what it is. Or how it works.’ (Robert Ryman, Critical texts since 1967, ed. Vittorio Colaizzi and Karsten Schubert, Ridinghouse, 2009: 20).
His paintings intrigue me in that on the one hand when faced with walls of mostly white paintings I experience quietude, but when drawing close I am fascinated by the marks and surfaces and his seemingly endless capacity for experimentation. In the Dia show I was particularly drawn to one work, so much so that after leaving the gallery I went back after a while to look again. This work seemed to me to be perfect in its simplicity and slight detail. After an earlier showing of Catalyst III (1985), Ryman spoke of this work, which is an aluminium support held to the wall by four bolts:
‘It’s one of my favourite drawings, that was shown at the Modern, in Bernice’s show (MOMA, New York). It’s not very large 23 x 23 inches, but it’s probably my favourite drawing. It’s just one of these things that is so amazingly simple, but it’s very complex and everything works…What you’re not seeing in the photograph is this line [the aluminium edge of the drawing]. It’s just the line of the metal, but it’s there and it’s important’.


Agnes Martin paintings at Dia:Beacon

Dia:Beacon is located about 60 miles north of Manhattan, New York. The train from Grand Central Station runs alongside the Hudson river, with a slate beach close to the track. The train passes jetties and wooden houses on its way to Beacon, a small place that houses the Dia art galleries within surrounding grounds of trees. On the day that I visited it poured with rain. I arrived just after the gallery opened around 11am and stayed until it closed at 6pm. There were enough paintings and sculptures to keep me occupied all day, with an excellent bookshop and cafe.

Agnes Martin’s paintings occupy two adjoining galleries, with the ‘Innocent Love’ series from the 90s purposely made for the gallery in one space and some older works in the second space. The natural light filters in from slanted roof windows and changes according to the light outside. I had seen some of Agnes Martin’s paintings before in the Tate galleries, London but in the Dia galleries the paintings seemed to emanate light. Particularly along the top edge, where they seemed to have an afterimage that extended into the space above the paintings. The arrangement of paintings allowed the works to be in dialogue with each other. I moved from side to side, towards their surfaces and away. At a distance they seem to float, close up I became aware that the paint was so thin in some areas as to seem to be only a residue on the surface. The earlier works showed the logical sequence of progression from geometric shapes and grids to the later works with bands of pale washy paint. The pencil lines of the grids seemed to have dissolved into the paint. I became aware of how important light is to Martin’s paintings and how slight the traces of paint were upon the surfaces of her later works.

Keith Tyson paintings at Pace, London


Keith Tyson’s recent paintings in the exhibition Panta Rhei , translates from Ancient Greek as ‘everything flows’.  Pace gallery is behind the Royal Academy of Arts in Burlington Gardens, W1S 3ET.  Exhibition is on until 28 March.

From his statement in the exhibition:

‘the field..for me, is the myriad of networks – whether physical, conceptual or emotional – that make the present moment.  All these systems combined form our interdependent world…’
He describes the paintings as visual poems and builds ‘complex surfaces formed of two or more images sharing a connection’.

further info on

Frank Bowling’s Poured Paintings at Tate Britain, London

Drop, Roll, Slide, Drip…This unusual title gives the viewer a clue as to the content of Bowling’s paintings with his now familiar palette of hot pinks and oranges.  He was influenced by his time in New York in the sixties where he encountered Abstract Expressionist paintings and went on to make these poured paintings during the 1970s.

Bowling set out to fill the centre of the canvas with poured paint at a time when there was an interest in process painting – painting about the paint itself.  The works on display show what paint does as it runs, mixes and pools. The artist’s control is limited; Bowling poured different colours down a tilted canvas.  The paint produced interesting, but fairly predictable effects.

I wonder about later drip paintings (for example, Ian Davenport). The puddles of powdery paint on Bowling’s canvases also remind me of the explosive effects in John Hoyland’s paintings.  I think painting that uses the properties of paint has been done in a more interesting way recently through the work of Alexis Harding.