Wavelength: Helen Blake, Gillian Lawler, Bridget O'Rourke & Tom Phelan
The Molesworth Gallery is delighted to present Wavelength, an exhibition of the work of four contemporary abstract painters, each of whom can be placed along a continuum charting a gradual detachment from the observable physical world. Along the way, there are nods to the Twentieth Century schools of abstract expressionism, minimalism, colour-field painting and op-art, but also the more conceptually rigourous approaches evident in contemporary art.
Helen Blake is a painter whose practice focuses on colour, engaging with rhythm and formalism, chance and deliberation. Using a working method where process and contemplation guide the evolution of the work, her small, overtly hand-made paintings record and examine colour conversations within accumulating pattern structures, embracing accidents, flaws and discrepancies within their rhythms.
Gillian Lawler’s work references the built environment in all its hubris, fragility and occasional beauty. Although the topographical details in the work could depict actual human interventions in the landscape, they are always sufficiently divorced from reality to conjure a surreal, even dystopian vision. The writer and curator Catherine Marshall has said of Lawlor’s work that her “incredibly subtle treatment of colour, texture and scale, make [it] a celebration of everything that is good in painting”.
Bridget O’Rourke’s paintings form part of an ongoing investigation into the question of reciprocity, of producing meaning through tension, opposition and balance. Although abstract, her paintings refer to perceptual reality. They invoke various scales simultaneously: those of landscape and atmospheric depth, and those of close-up, haptic surface texture. They are rooted in direct experience and visual memory. Fiachra Gibbons, former Arts Correspondent with The Guardian, has written of O’Rourke’s work that it “is an inspired pursuit of memory and memories, a working and re-working of what happened and what was felt till she arrives at something essential.”
Tom Phelan’s work also tackles the formal problems of abstraction - balancing colour, shape and composition into an unified whole. Underpinning each piece in this show, however, is a visual reference to the sea or to surfing: the prow of a surfboard, a heaving sea-swell, a breaking wave. He works on Casani birch panels, using the grain of the wood to add texture and depth to the work and also to suggest the early wooden surfboards long since replaced by fibreglass.