Converging Lines

Roy Good & Charlotte Watson

Showing 18th November 2014 - 6th December 2014

Exhibition Information

Converging Lines - Roy Good & Charlotte Watson

Something happened to abstract painting in the last decade of the 20th century that can be traced back to the 1960s and the minimalist sculpture of Donald Judd and paintings of Frank Stella. Seeking to draw attention to the materiality of the art object in preference to its potential for narratives, Judd sought to strip art of its metaphors, symbolism, eulogies and potential for story-telling, and abstract paintings by Stella began to reside in neutralised territory.

Yet if abstract painting became a physical and material ‘thing,’ – arguably positioned in a moral void – didn’t this also imply that it was possible for it to be receptive to the subjective responses of all who entered the space of the art gallery? An abstract painting could just as easily be read or interpreted as figurative, abstract, both or neither. Whatever it represented, the only certainty remaining was that abstraction was fundamentally connected to, and part of, the world in which we live. As a work of art, there was no ‘sacred apartness.’[i]

Roy Good and Charlotte Watson represent differing generations of arts practice. Good began exhibiting in the late 1960s and Charlotte Watson held her first solo exhibition and installation in 2011 in a transitional and temporary ‘gallery’ space at 183 Milton Street in Sydenham, Christchurch. As the title of this exhibition implies, Converging Lines references the formalist concerns of abstraction evident in the work of both artists, as well as the notion of a lineage of ways of thinking about and making art across generations.

Yet, although Watson’s black and white drawings appear as concise in their design as Good’s paintings are succinct, her imagery reveals a sense of manoeuvring relationships and a more self-conscious interest in story-telling – the ebb and flow of light, spaces, darkness and vacuums –   Watson’s images oscillate between positive and negative – resolute and determined in their imagery, yet equally open-ended.

On one level, Watson’s art represents the language and traditions of abstraction, yet, for the artist, there is also a complexity of issues and ideas about decision making and personal responsibilities. The formal relationships in these drawings are informed by a particular narrative.   Watson recalls:

Back in March [2014]… we were flying over South East Victoria [in Australia]… looking out my window I noticed a colossal hole in the ground; a gaping, hard edged shape with staggered steps pulling downwards. I had never seen an open cut mine before…. this was the infamous Hazelwood Coal Mine….. I moved to Melbourne for many reasons, but one of them was economic. For graduates, moving to Australia or the UK was a good idea because you could send more back to your student loans based in NZ…. So here we have two elements – the backward approach to the issue of climate change and the further pushing for economic growth…. for me they pose an interesting moral question:  The hole in the ground keeps getting larger because people like me (albeit further down the line) need the money and the economic stability that it provides. However… the hole in the ground is actually more consequential to me because climate change sits in the lap of my generation….   So where is my moral standing in that?  What these drawings represent is [not only] the effect of the economy on the land, but also the idea of short term gain as opposed to long term stability.[ii]

And although Good’s paintings may be more directly formalist and purely aesthetic in their concerns, they are equally about relationships with the spaces and environment of the world they occupy. The edges of his canvases have a tendency to reach out beyond the traditional rectangle of the picture plane in response to the geometry of the shapes and spatial relationships contained within. These are paintings that animate and interact with the world beyond their edges. As Ed Hanfling observes:

Good’s paintings have architectural affiliations…. Among the functions and ramifications of the shaped support in Good’s work, is its role in emphasising that the paintings are material objects. This is the legacy of early mid-twentieth century European Modernism and its mission to align art with the technology and systems of the modern age, not to create pictures withdrawn from immediate realities.[iii]

Certainly, if there is a convergence of intentions between Good and Watson’s practices it is evident in a shared economy of form that belies a subtle and complex consideration of spatial relationships. Yet, more importantly it equally resides in a sharing of principles about the way in which the work of both artists retains and renews art’s connectedness with the material world.

Warren Feeney

[i] Edward Hanfling, In Good Form. The Abstract Art of Roy Good, Auckland: Lopdell House Gallery, 2007, p.9

[ii] Email from the artist, 25 September 2014

[iii] Hanfling, pp, 7 – 8

 

 

 

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Converging Lines - Roy Good & Charlotte Watson

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