Nau mai, haere mai, welcome to eyeCONTACT, a forum built to encourage art reviews and critical discussion about the visual culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. I'm John Hurrell its editor, a New Zealand writer, artist and curator. While Creative New Zealand and other supporters are generously paying me and other contributors to review exhibitions over the following year, all expressed opinions are entirely our own.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Playing chasing with paint

Simon Ingram and James Cousins: TAG
Gow Langsford
9 January - 23 January 2010

This is a clever idea: putting Simon Ingram’s complex systems but optically stable results alongside James Cousins' comparatively simple processes and convulsively frenetic outcomes; especially if the two painters (two friends who share the same dealer) play chasing (or tag wrestling) with application techniques, darting around each other’s inversely related work methods – testing unexpected approaches and extrapolating out and around their regular procedures.

We have here eight experimental works sorted into four sets of two. Because the artists have organised the hang so their work goes abbabaab, no one personality dominates. Ingram (a) leads in from the left, Cousins (b) from the right.

So after deciding to start from Gow Langsford's street front window and move in pairs towards the inner space, the first two we find deal with over and under the grid or the applied masking tape. Cousins’ Closed Cast has its zigzagging, spastic masking tape configuration left intact with its chromatically modulated plane of brown and blue paint lying on top undisturbed. What lies underneath is a mystery. Could even be the same colours.

Ingram’s much smaller, earlier work nearby, Empire, suggests this might be the case. His rule based grids of wee squares have the same colours applied underneath and on top, with some rectangular edges crisp and clean, others wobbly and covered by brushmarks.

The second two paintings play with movement. Ingram’s Untitled has its yellow daubs of oil paint disturbed by a bumped canvas while his Lego robot is actually applying the pigment. The support is methodically manipulated by hand in conjunction with the activity of the machine.

Cousins’ accompanying YF4 is wild. He has taken the masking tape off and while the surrounding top coat is still wet, and frenetically agitated it with a brush – blending it into the underlying layer. The angular masked lines are mixed with a more fluid tumbling movement.

The third pair look at subtractive and additive processes. Ingram’s Riser has thick red paint applied on to a linen stretcher on which is drawn a pencilled grid. In some areas that paint has been later removed with turps so you can detect white squares beneath and blue underpainting.

Cousins’ nearby pink Drought is a lot simpler. An L-shaped blue line follows the left and bottom edges while in the top left-hand corner a large square of blue paint has been blurrily removed.

The last couple of works look at manual application. In Jardin Moderne, Ingram has made a series of dramatically sweeping red diagonal and horizontal lines brushed on by hand and not using his robot. It looks like a very delicate Franz Kline.

In response Cousins has added an extra layer of thick yellow paint over an old work completed two years previously, so you can see slivers of the earlier painting peeking through at the stretcher edges. The sticky oily pigment of Cool Yellow has been applied vigorously and agitated with a narrow brush.

This exhibition is the start of a new Initiative series for Gow Langsford, one devoted to experimental painting projects. It’s a great idea. If they are all as good as this, we have a lot to look forward to.

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