press release

In his essay Modernist Painting, written in 1961, Clement Greenberg set out a defence of modern art based on the notion of historical continuity. This exhibition brings together a group of artists from different generations who grappled and continue to grapple with the features of modernity identified by Greenberg.

Greenberg wrote: “Modernist art develops out of the past without gap or break, and wherever it ends up it will never stop being intelligible in terms of the continuity of art”. This exhibition seeks to make links between contemporary art practice and that of earlier 20th century modernists in order to demonstrate that artistic concerns with shape, balance, scale and colour remain current. Similarities in colour and painterly texture may be found between the white paintings of Sam Francis and Sandra Blow, made in 1955 and 1961 respectively. At the same time, the intersection of horizontal and vertical planes in the recent work of Arabella Hope could be regarded as a contemporary echo of Blow s composition.

The sculptural works of Steven Gontarski, Barbara Hepworth, Des Hughes and Henry Moore included in this exhibition each address the notion of spatial completeness. In 1937 Moore observed that “A hole can itself have as much shape-meaning as a solid mass” and through their engagement with the interplay between mass and void, balance and scale, these artists demonstrate how qualities of the sculpted form continue to be of fundamental importance.

For Greenberg, recognising art s historical lineage was important because he suggested that it is through art s engagement, response and divergence with the past that it is able to sustain itself into the future. Throughout his career Albert Irvin has consistently cited JMW Turner as a major influence; Hannah Maybank s textured monochrome works recall the organic underpinnings of Ben Nicholson s sculptural reliefs; while Lucy Stein s gestural oil canvases demonstrate how a contemporary female painter can productively respond to Expressionism. While post-modernism expanded the field of art practice, theory and subject matter, and Greenberg s writings have been widely critiqued and problematised, as this exhibition demonstrates, the questions of continuity and departure remain relevant


Künstler: Sandra Blow, Sam Francis, Steven Gontarski, Barbara Hepworth, Arabella Hope, Des Hughes, Albert Irvin, Hannah Maybank, Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson, Lucy Stein