Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Review of Jonathan Gabb: SYSTEM at WW Gallery

Jonathan Gabb: SYSTEM
WW Gallery
9 January – 2 February 2013

Part of the prize for winning the WW SOLO Award 2012 was a three-month residency in the gallery’s studio, and Jonathan Gabb, selected from over 300 entries, made good use of this time to perfect his “SYSTEM”. Using a carefully balanced combination of PVA glue and acrylic paints – the precise measures of which only he knows – this sculptural painter creates vast sheets of pure colour in huge trays on the studio floor. Once dry, he cuts them into fringed strips, and hangs them from ceilings, skylights, and walls, like canopies and curtains, intertwining and tying individual strands to one another, and creating a panoply of colour. Tantalisingly begging to be touched and wandered amidst, these works need not only to be admired from all different viewpoints, but also just looked at head on and absorbed, as they absorb the viewer in return.

Standing beneath prime titanium 4, I feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland after she has drunk the potion which shrinks her. It is as if I have landed inside an enormous party popper, amongst the myriad multi-coloured streamers. Cascading from the skylight in the ceiling, there is a desire to climb upwards, ascending the refracted colours of the primary spectrum – red, blue and yellow – to the pure light which merges with the white strands above.

Across the room, on either side of the partition door, hang two curtains, one blue, one yellow, but both also with white at the top (parsing: prussian blue + white and parsing: cadmium yellow + white respectively). Here, rather than appearing as a light source, this upper section seems almost bleached of its colour, as if its very vitality had drained downwards to the dull grey ground, like electricity rushing to its earth.

Some strands are different colours on different sides too, and then there is also the interaction of natural light, flooding into the gallery, which makes everything appear different at different times of day. All of this was a new adventure for Gabb, whose New Cross studio has no windows at all.

The strands, which are thicker than one would expect, and surprisingly enduring, if still delicate, have a sense of presence, whilst remaining unimposing. They are “outlined” on the walls and floors by frames (the edge of the sheets of colour from which they were cut, but remain umbilically attached), demarcating their space, an imaginary support, their backbone, or their do-not-cross line.

Whether you experience these pieces as unwanted output from a shredder, crazy-coloured, man-sized tagliatelli, or the rotating sponges of a carwash, they certainly offer a full on perceptual assault. They call out to be danced amongst like streamers, and the overwhelming evocation is one of carnival and theatre, of celebration of some kind. And, indeed, that is exactly what they are: a celebration of paint and colour, pure and simple. 


Jonathan Gabb: SYSTEM at WW Gallery
Installation shots
Photos: Anna McNay
© the artist and WW Gallery

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