Brancaster Chronicle No. 85: Noela James Bewry Paintings

Number 1. 100cm x 120cm (acrylic on canvas)

Artist’s Statement

The works shown here have all been painted in the last year. It seems my response to the atmosphere of 2020 has been to slow down my pace and spend more time contemplating next moves rather than employing a process of action and swift reaction. I have instead used broken mixed colour within the brush strokes to achieve a sense of movement.

I feel this approach has affected the look of the work.

I look forward to your comments.

Number 2. 100cm x 75cm (acrylic on canvas)

 

Number 3. 120cm x 150cm (acrylic on canvas)

 

Number 4. 160cm x 100cm (acrylic on canvas)

 

Number 5. 100cm x 160cm (acrylic on canvas)

 

Number 6. 100cm x 75cm (acrylic on canvas)

42 comments
    • noelajamesbewry said:

      Thank you Pete

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  1. I saw your work for the first time in Deal at the Making Painting Abstract exhibition. I thought then that yours was the best work there. I enjoyed your use of colour, the consistent brush stroke all over and some mixed or broken colour within the brush stroke which you were using. There seemed to be a lot of control within the apparently busy pictorial area.

    These paintings look to continue that with more mixed paint in the brush stroke and a more varied use of colour, also the paint looks thinner with the white ground glowing through in some places (?) I don’t like no2 so much, rather dark to my taste unless you were trying to set a mood. The brush stroke in this set seems less consistent, more varied which gets particularly obvious in no6, maybe because its smaller, same size as no2. Looking at paintings on a screen destroys scale unfortunately.

    Something that does strike me about this work, and all the work now produced by those artists shown in Deal, is the “all-over-ness” which flattens the space. Colour will always produce some space with the 3 dimensional push and pull it generates but here the pictorial space seems to be very flat although contrast or tone helps. no6 has more space than the others I think.

    If you are slowing down a bit I think thats probably useful. Acrylic is difficult to work fast so why not take more time to work in stages with more reflection.

    I would love to see these in the flesh at some point as i’m sure they will be even better than they are here although, at the moment, i think i preferred the work i saw at Deal

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  2. smart said:

    From Anne

    Hi Noela ..” I have instead used broken mixed colour within the brush strokes to achieve a sense of movement”

    I absolutely see that.
    What’s most exciting is that I see that sense of movement without any specific direction.
    The ways in and out of your paintings..all of them.. have varying degrees of depth.

    How you do that is remarkable…but with your own logic. This logic is personal …it is not like a code to be broken.
    I see how you use it make decision after decision to enrich the works .i particularly like the curves rummaging around in No1 and No 3 , they pull in to the paintings but are stopped short…their space is all at different depths…along with diagonals and almost verticals of the same width they bring together all the motion…. but never a sense of the edge….
    and I like No 5 because the verticals stand erect and both block and welcome me into it’s spaces.
    No 6 is challenging…I like the strongly drawn purple and green circles…they seem to pull me into the space of the painting further than the others…Not sure if the larger areas of mixed yellows oranges blues and browns pull me back to a frontal pictoriality ..yet.
    what you do with the space you create in these is exciting ……{I think space is in the air here !!!! }
    You have a tight reign on your space but it does not hamper any private explorations

    Pete Hoida remarks on your good rich colour. .. and he knows what he is talking about… I am sure the way you use colour in such a consistent way is helping the paintings to be so strong.

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  3. noelajamesbewry said:

    Thank you very much Anne and John…..yes colour is key and I do feel the need to explore abstract territory using dark as well as bright colour.
    I don’t have a problem with overall-ness, John, and I feel the space flows across the canvas, whereas pictorial space sounds more figurative and relies on recession and depth. Could abstract space, perhaps, be more mutable and varied than conventional pictorial space?
    I sometimes wonder whether ‘space’ in abstract painting is in the eye of the beholder and we all see and experience it differently.
    Number 6 was very difficult to photograph, it has a pallet that keeps changing and responding to the state of light throughout the day. The colour notes might be a little high here, and slightly low in Number 1. It is difficult to adjust to screen viewing, but hopefully, it is better than nothing.

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    • Hi Noela,
      I dont have a problem with overall ness either, its been around since Pollock and Greenberg and is actually important in many ways, I was merely commenting that I see more of it these days, particularly in the group that showed at Deal. It seems to me that structure is sacrificed which might open the space up. I assume thats deliberate as there is obviously structure in your work but it is an “all over” composition.

      I’m not sure i like the term “Pictorial space” either. I suppose it is figurative. I have always said that i’m not creating a picture of anything, it is a painting, an arrangement of marks and colours in paint, canvas and wood which come together to form an image that stands in its own right. I used it for lack of another term in my head. Abstract space can certainly be varied. Pat Heron used to talk about recession and depth through the push and pull of colour and i would say tone as well. Recession and depth is not necessarily figurative.

      And yes, space, like beauty, is definitely in the eye of the beholder, it’s how one feels it. I find it tight and shallow in these paintings, and many others, but i suppose if we are talking about paint on a flat surface then why shouldn’t it be.

      If you photograph your own work it can be very difficult but you seem to have done OK. I was actually more concerned with scale. Smaller paintings appear on the screen at the same size as larger paintings so the brushstroke can seem to change disproportionately.

      Regards

      John Percy

      Liked by 1 person

      • noelajamesbewry said:

        Hi John, you can touch the image and it should enlarge so hopefully that will help with the scale issue. All the best.

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  4. harleysculpture said:

    Just as we discussed ‘linear in both Tim’s and my sculptures, you too appear to have introduced a directional aspect with the paint. This has added an extra layer of depth and they certainly have a vibrant and energetic feel. No5 also has a huge spatial depth to my eye. Tony says something v pertinent re a ‘sense of movement without any specific direction’. I would say that actually you have used the paint to work with and sometimes against the anticipated direction, adding to the energy.

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  5. Hilde Skilton said:

    Talk about being busy with movement…l keep on going back to no.3….there is constant movement…being drawn in from the edges into the gathering energy of the painting! This pallet is subtle…not relying on push and pull …not sure how to talk about the colour and how this is working!

    Hi Noela…thank you for this selection of paintings! The edges in some of the paintings have been bothering me…now I need time to look and think more on why!

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    • noelajamesbewry said:

      Thank you Hilde, I look forward to hearing why the edges bother you.

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  6. Enjoying the sumptuous colour in these. I can see the issue with the edges, maybe which seem to crop in as if the rich tapestry of colour continues as part of a larger form, maybe? I think number 6 releases the colour from the gestures more whereas the others have gestures which hold onto the colour. The guts of this one has some real fizzy sections (lovely blue towards the top which could have killed it with a cooler choice). This one has the least “graspable form” feel to it. Also, it’s “palette” by the way folks, unless you’re moving washing machines 🙂 Lovely work Noela.

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    • noelajamesbewry said:

      Thanks Emyr, I’m going to blame it on the autocorrect ha!

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    • noelajamesbewry said:

      Hi Emyr,
      I have been thinking about your comment regarding the edges (which Hilde brought up as a consideration) and wondering what specifically creates the feeling that some of the paintings seem cropped from a larger form. Do you think this happens in abstract paintings sometimes? I am wondering how to offset this problem?

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      • Ultimately it will come down to colour, Noela. For example: if you are using the same red across the surface this would be akin to a similar point in space which is consolidated by the similarity of handling, which perpetuates a form. You use lights to animate the brushstroke and also use directions too. They are very rich to see on this viewing – feeling somewhat tapestry-like – a blanket of colour. On screen edges are always a problem and I am startled to see just HOW much different paintings are in the flesh to screen photos after I have uploaded my own – you lose such a huge amount of detail, too, which is so crucial. I can see the gesture being cut by the edge; this feels the thing to do – to let the pace of the mark run off or enter in. I am wrestling with this myself. It feels somewhat “wrong” to run a colour down a side or (even worse) across a top or bottom – you do this at times in an understated way and these marks become part of the rest in a woven in way. I can see how the gestures accumulate into masses or phrases and how you temper and check any jolting from occurring. What I like is when there is a more aggressive mark it flows as part of a larger phrasing which stops it from popping out. (example the middle right grey in Number 3 which seems part of a larger curving asymmetrical quadrant). Some of the colour has an almost vegetal quality. Each painting seems to have a colour “theme” as if they have a connection to something in a lyrical way. As to abstract painting and the “cropped form”, I can see this as an issue and is quite prevalent when the marks are more “jostling”- whether it’s problem or not, I couldn’t say, really. Any alternative could only come out of trying something and seeing. There are no hierarchies of “approach”, proofs and puddings etc

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  7. Thank you Noela. Congratulations. I feel you have pushed on again.

    No.6
    I find a harmony in the tone of Noela’s colour, swizzles and sticks, curls and swipes and fantastic balanced light and darks. Noela’s work for me has a luminosity of which I am quite jealous. The split on the almost middle left horizontal breathes again on the lightest part of the right hand side, connecting the two forms. C’s and 7’s and upended M’s, 2’s and O’s combine. There is a great sequence from the top left cascading down to the bottom right. Love it!

    No.5,
    Agile, shimmering, pliable brushwork and colour reminds me of melted sugar, then it crystalises as in hard rock candy, C’s and turns and caves combine to move me from bottom left to upper right. Sonia Delaunay esque rhythms and crimson stratas. I’m engaged. Lovely subtle and succinct horizontal thirds cut through by a left to right diagonal.

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    • No 3
      This one for me is a good example of how Noela’s work has the power to evoke a memory or an imagined place.
      I feel nostalgic. The texture of early 90’s replica football shirts, the light of something alpine, Italia 90 perhaps.
      Another bottom left to right diagonal here with perhaps a central winged form. Lots of edges, cracked gems stones or quartz. Tantalizing space.

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      • noelajamesbewry said:

        Your response Steven (which I really liked) made me think, especially regarding Tim’s recent comment onTony’s feed about any reference to ‘cloudiness’ in his sculptures could lead to a kind of illustrative diminishing, and whether evoking memory or comparisons with nature etc. can be tolerated more in abstract painting than abstract sculpture.

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      • Hi Noela,
        I am enjoying the discussion thread on Tony’s work and I’m wry interested in the idea of cloudness.
        My response to your work is of course subjective and I hope I’m not placing limitations on it when I look to understand it through semantics. But I can’t think of any other way to do it.
        I can’t think of how to use my descriptive vocabulary for an art work in any other way but I do ask myself if I am adding to my understanding of it by using references to nature or memory. I feel the work could very happily stand up for itself without my input.
        I feel I am looking for your trace. I am looking for something which connects me to how you made it, to get a feeling of you the artist. A second, or a glimpse, of being in your shoes in the making of it.
        I am reading Susan Sontag’s essay “Against Interpretation” which I hope will answer my question of does it matter whether it is more beneficial to the art work to understand the work though describing the content, and what that content evokes, or is it how it makes me feel?

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  8. noelajamesbewry said:

    I find this is a very relevant discussion to have.
    Does one need to know what is going on in the mind of the painter/sculptor or should each viewer bring their imagination into play and use any experiences open to them.
    That is one key benefit of abstract work, it can convey many things to different minds.
    I also feel that titles can fix an image too readily sometimes, okay if one doesn’t know what they mean, or seem like made-up words or just names.
    I know what I am feeling or trying to do in my paintings but purposely do not want to explain because that might have a diminishing effect.
    It is very different talking about physical and practical handling of the paint and dialogues around particular methods or use of colour.
    I actually find it really interesting to hear how people perceive things.

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    • I would say that we shouldn’t need to know what the artist is thinking, but sometimes knowing can be interesting. Sometimes it is not interesting. But the work remains, regardless of what we think about it. It should be imperative to allow for every viewer to be able to bring their own experience to it, even if they see things that we might not want them to see. It’s all potentially “there”, and being aware of these interpretations can have an impact on our decision making.

      I like titles because I think they can expand entry points to a work, and if the work is restricted by a title, it was probably a limited work to begin with.

      I very much relate to the feeling of not wanting to explain to everyone what I’m thinking about. Maybe we don’t want to give up our secrets, or perhaps we all have a feeling of fraudulence. Perhaps we feel like no one could find these things as interesting as we do. At the end of the day, the work tells the story.

      I’m really enjoying the look of your work, Noela. It’s interesting that you say they’ve been made at a slower pace. To me they almost look faster than your previous works. Maybe that’s because of the more abbreviated brush marks. I really like the look of number 2. The palette is dark and alluring. Perhaps there is something slightly romantic about it, which could be a bit treacherous, maybe too seductive. But I dig it! It stands out.

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      • noelajamesbewry said:

        Thank you Harry for your perceptive comments.
        There is a talent to picking the right title and you have a good point that it can ‘expand entry points to a work’ .
        Yes, the pace is slower but I think the broken colour accentuates the movement and speed.
        Glad you like number 2, I kind of feel the same about it.
        Looking forward to seeing your Brancaster post.

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      • harleysculpture said:

        Harry, you say the work restricted by a title is probably limited to start with. I totally disagree! If one needs a title to ‘see’ the work then I feel one does not have the courage of their convictions to look. That is not a slur on you at all. For me, giving a title is fraught with difficulty. An audience wanting to know what the title means, are seeking permission to interpret or need help to do this. The work is the work, it is not changed either way by what it is called

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      • Alex, I think we are more or less saying the same thing. If the work is strong, the title won’t hamper it.

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  9. smart said:

    From Anne

    Steven..like Noela …I find it fascinating to hear how people perceive things.
    Even if those things are subjective…. it can be hard to get your thoughts out if you are visually obsessed.. but how something makes you feel ….that is a very special something to give away..
    I think it’s important to share your feelings about someone else’s work, most of us….well to a certain extent…. can describe something, whether it be casual or forensic.
    But if you are on the receiving end of real feelings…its so good….its important..

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  10. Hilde Skilton said:

    Ok Noela, l have looked and looked again and what I am seeing in 3 and 4 is how the edge is initiating the movement and energy in the paintings…less so in the others…as Emyr says “ I can see the issue with the edges, maybe which seem to crop in as if the rich tapestry of colour continues as part of a larger form, maybe?” I am enjoying this movement and the culmination of it in the rest of the painting of 3and4.

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    • noelajamesbewry said:

      Hi Hilde,
      I have asked Emyr what makes the edges look like they make some of the paintings seem part of a larger form, I wonder if you have any specific thoughts about where this occurs. I am really interested in the way you see this problem.

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  11. noelajamesbewry said:

    Thank you for your reply regarding the edges Emyr, you have explained it very well.
    My understanding is that the overall-ness that John has mentioned would exacerbate the feeling of the edges carrying on as part of a larger form. I thought the running of colour along the edges was a way of containing the central areas but perhaps it has the opposite effect to some eyes.
    Mark J. has just said the left hand edge of Number 5 bothers him and I can see what he means.
    I do agree with you that the edges do seem more prominent on screen, but I do remember Hilde being concerned about them in a previous Brancaster.
    In short, if I understand you correctly, groupings of colour in passages, rather than a particular colour appearing across the canvas, would probably take the focus away from the edges.

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    • Hi Noela, I wouldn’t go as far to summarise it like that as I think that would point to a formulaic approach (?) When there are lots of similar sized marks butting the edge or cutting it they “can” merge into the sense of a form due to their similarity. Whether this is a problem or something to avoid is not really something that can be answered – it’s relative to each artist’s own choices.

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  12. noelajamesbewry said:

    Yes, the individual choice of the artist is key. It is, however, very illuminating which elements bother some viewers.

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  13. John Bunker said:

    Noela’s latest work brings this issue of all over-ness to the fore. In other conversations I’ve heard the term ‘all over different-ness’ used. I guess my issue is about when all over different-ness lapses into all over same-ness no matter how much ‘noodling’ has gone into the process. I keep being reminded of long protracted guitar solos from the prog-rock 70s where virtuosity dissipates into bland cyclical ‘signature style’ flourishes etc. However, Noela’s great colour sense and decisive decision making has given me much food for thought.

    So what constitutes ‘different-ness’? Surely ‘different-ness’ would mean diversity in sized elements being made up of different qualities such as different shapes and colour, texture, opacity, thickness and thinness etc? Noela has set herself a great challenge here, and I am really enjoying the questions that keep coming up for me: How does each painting hold your eye? How is the eye drawn around the surface? When does the same-ness start creeping in? How do you keep breaking the habits of looking and making in a particular way? Where are the points of tension? How are those points of tension released or harnessed over the complete surface of the painting? Noela is creating work that opens up these kinds of questions and is finding her own way of answering them.

    No2 reminds me of the more earth-bound elements of Titain’s Bacchus and Ariadne which I am missing being able to go and see at the moment. But how does Titain get this perfect tension between the relative wispy emptiness of blue sky and the menagerie of beasts and general mayhem of movements streaming and twisting down from the top right? This ‘sky’ is more than a back-drop. The sky is not ’empty’ it is blue- an orchestration of BLUES. As Bacchus declares himself to Ariedne, the blues of the sky seem to intensify pushing back and down on his shoulder and then down again on the the chaotic cohort below and behind him. The muscle bound satyr covering himself with snakes also seems to be overwhelmed by the intensity of the encroaching blues of the heavens. It’s as though he and the trees behind are physically being pressed up against the ’emptiness’ of the sky. This startling blue void is then intensified yet again by Bacchuss’ flowing pink robe and the hefty greens of the arching tree’s foliage. I also have always liked the way Ariadne’s body twists away from us and Bacchus’ body twists towards us, exposing his chest and in that gesture conveying a certain kind of vulnerability. This two-way stretch, toward and away, increases the tension right across the painting. None of this would be possible without those blues. I see aspects of these kinds of visual dramas bubbling away in Noela’s no 1, no 2 and no 6. Great work Noela! I can’t wait to see what happens next…

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  14. noelajamesbewry said:

    Thank you very much John, there is a lot to think about here and your questions are very important to keep addressing. I really like the way you see ‘visual dramas bubbling away’ in these paintings.

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  15. noelajamesbewry said:

    Sometimes I wish I could edit and repost a comment, I meant to say in some of these paintings.

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  16. Hilde Skilton said:

    You know Noela…l think to begin with l was overwhelmed by the complexity and some of the edge would flit away…now as l am engaging with and enjoying the complexity of say no 5 the edge seems less problematic and if some flit…so be it. Maybe that unease is a good thing!

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  17. noelajamesbewry said:

    Thank you Hilde, I have been watching earlier Brancaster sessions, Steven’s and Harry’s just recently, and it is interesting how the edge question is debated too. I feel it is a very important consideration in a painting but at the same time it does seem to have a fluid importance which can shift, as it seems to have for you.
    It could be a good thing if ease and unease maintain a state of flux.

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  18. Looking again at Noela’s paintings and some read as contemporary landscapes for me and some read as contemporary interiors such as the almost cubist Gris-esque domestic table and chair setting in No. 2
    I take on board John B’s thoughts referencing Titian and I can certainly see that writhing Bacchanalian centre but for me it has, and in general with Noela’s work, a futurist sensibility. At times an astringent almost metallic industrial colour, a speed captured, and edges which provide hundreds of changes in perspective.

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  19. Noela’s work is really strong on colour and diverse movement and it is hard to describe what differentiates these works, other than on those two points.
    Some of the work emphasises certain parts more than others, which stand out due to their unusual (in relation to the rest of the work) shape, volume, or colour. A lot for me turns on whether these aspects work; I like it when they do but not if they overwhelm and relegate the rest of a work into merely ‘supporting roles’. The ‘standing out’ also needs qualifying: as you move around these works/worlds, honing in on areas, you also see many great areas and passages (not just the ones you notice at the initial moment of seeing), most of which are not isolated from the rest; this is an important achievement.
    The other thing that seems generally successful is that many areas have a multiplicity of successful relationships with their surrounding neighbours. Their individuality is also part of a number of different collectives: reminds me of the phrase ‘alone-with-others’: neither the individual or the group dominates, although ‘at times’ parts will be more dominant (vocal) as you move around spatially and temporally. The whole also has to work.
    I like the look of these works: there’s a cubist vibe to the portrait works, but not in a reductive way.

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  20. noelajamesbewry said:

    Thank you Steven and John P I really appreciate your thoughtful comments.
    I see the cubist like quality in some of the works, in Number 2 I think it might have a lot to do with the colour.
    The portrait format can also accentuate a particular kind of organisation that lends itself to a ‘cubist vibe’.
    I like the fact that, for you Steven, the edges provide multiple ‘changes in perspective ‘, that sounds like a positive to me.
    And what a great phrase ‘alone -with-others’, to describe some of the action here, feels like a very human state.

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    • I forgot to say that the edges look pretty good to me. Doing them any other way would risk some kind of framing and/or simplified figure/ground.

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  21. harleysculpture said:

    I have been pondering the discussion about the edge in Noela’s paintings. As she has pointed out, this is a perennial discussion amongst the painters. Comments re Tony’s sculptures have highlighted the problems of being limited by the images, but I am finding that I am seeing and relating to these sculptures differently because of this. The rich complexity of the internal aspects of Tony’s sculpture, the real relationship between parts, is potentially suspended for the time being, but the way the sculpture creates an ‘edge’ is something that has become far more available. We have a static viewpoint with images online and this may go some way to explaining the object-ness Mark described to and the ‘start’ of the sculpture that both Mark and Emyr refer to. Does a static image enable a greater sense of understanding the surrounding space at that very particular point – with all the attendant problems of not having all the sculpture available? How does this information impact on the oblong /portrait of Noela’s and others paintings? A copy of this is also on Tony’s thread

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  22. smart said:

    From Tony

    With abstract sculpture if you extend outward you ned to find ways back in and not necessarily, or perhaps definitely not, back the same way.This directional looking from unit to unit, area to area, creates movement and explores depth in painting and plastic space in sculpture.

    These paintings are incredibly well thought out and in very unpredictable ways. Very, very challenging ,asking that ‘seemingly’ hundreds of three dimensionally positioned shoulder to shoulder ‘independently lit’ forms that seemingly leave the picture surface, yet at the same time remain together and one’s eye only returns to the picture plain.
    They do not amount to anything and yet almost convince that they are real only to pull away at the last moment just when you think you know what they are because they now seem familiar. I guess that the ‘independently lit’ aspect is the catalyst, yet it is so not in your face. It is discovered in time. It must be deliberate.
    Previous paintings have tended to ‘sit back’ .These ‘sit up’ , pushing out and returning in swift fashion. But it is in the ‘how’ of returning. It is as if a new perspective is being invented for each grouping and the more dramatic they are the more challenging and challenged the perspective is. What is great is that the perspective is not real across the surface but is disruptive of its neighbours and furthers the feeling of three dimensions and space. I like them a lot, all of them and the more they pile it on the better they are for me.They are made ‘real’ on their own terms, they are different because they relate to little else in being an invention. They are not an idea. They are developing.

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  23. noelajamesbewry said:

    Thank you so much Tony, and everyone for the very thoughtful and thought provoking comments.

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  24. I’ve always been attracted to Fernand Leger’s more abstract paintings but at the same time find them horribly cloying. I feel this set (most obviously Number 4) has the quality that attracts me to Leger’s work – probably the clarity and dynamism of directional elements – but without the cloyingness. [I know cloyingness isn’t a word but it should be.]

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