Malgras / Naudet Gallery
North West England

A month shy of its first anniversary, city-centre Manchester’s ‘Malgras /Naudet’ gallery is staging a painting exhibition of the domestic scale output of artists James Parkinson and Kevin Ryan.

Entitled ‘Six Paintings’, in keeping with artist, gallery owner, and general factotum Magnus Quaafe’s conceptual prankster impulses, fifteen paintings are on show. Or possibly fourteen if the two sections of a potential diptych continue to get on well.

Ryan’s works have a rumbling choleric murkiness. Paintings disenchanted by paints inability to fulfill a number of historically bound promises; all ‘Untitled’ they sit like impolitely scruffy, post-ironic wrestles with self-referentiality.

In one a dead matt midnight blue surrounds a rough oval of blackboard grey which appears to have begun a gravity compelled vertical slide; another has the contained chaos of a Philip Guston palette in a tumble dryer whilst a number of the other paintings look as if a possessed automaton has repeated a finger-painting exercise on an A3 scale: a parody of the ubiquitous animal urge to perform a dirty protest on any clinically pure surface.

Outside the pull of painting as a persistent compulsion – a material essentialism as a trusted factthere is an ingrained acceptance of the infinite seduction of passive, self-undermining, playfully idiotic gestures as a fundamental tonality of being.

But the obverse is also in operation. Any stained flat surface placed on a vertical support can impose a potential wealth of warring spaces on the eye. Here the job seems to be to make manifest the disappearance of a certain set of interpretive possibilities, keeping in mind their potential to mutate and return. That’s why these grubby slices condensing the codified operations of ‘abstract’ painting show signs of erasure following excessive layering; they are a very literal display of this necessary editing process.

Also looking willfully shopworn, Parkinson’s ‘Nudge’, with its ghostly mauve girder motifs, and the patterned repetitions of ‘Tumble’ both employ the graphic, vertically elongated, architectural certainties of a Vorticist painting; the first executed in the tonally tight, earthy palette of early Cubist portraiture, the later in a wash of muted watercolour blue. The intimate scale and slightly sun-bleached appearance undermines any notional nod towards the harsh asceticism at the heart of Modernist architectural tenants.

Rather, their melancholic gauziness hints at a form of conceptual nesting, the visual phenomenon of concealing one image inside another, whilst, formally, suggesting a multiplicity of stylistic traditions.

Parkinson shows a fondness for the optical kick of various yellows: ‘InWith’ is a pale lemon yellow surface with a blue triangular wedge leaning into the unreadable picture space; ‘Variations’ an overlapping circles and square sitting under a drag of anaemic mustard; ‘First / Last’ a smeared yellow ochre with a polluting patch of bottle green.

All these works carry a sublimated discursivity which ultimately spirals back to the singularities of the work as an object realigning it with Ryan’s stubbornly present surfaces.

A notable difference is the fact that Ryan’s surface materiality continues around the edge of the shallow wooden ground whereas Parkinson, discounting an occasional dribble from their drying horizontally, leaves the raw supporting board as both a visual trope and a constructed reveal.

The conclusion to be reached over ‘Six Paintings’ is that there actually may only be six paintings here after all, six disassembled events spread over fifteen surfaces, proving that when it gets the urge to behave inappropriately painting can still irritate in its own singular way.

Paul Cordwell.

Malgras / Naudet Gallery,

Crusader Mill, 66-72

Chapeltown Street,


M1 2WH.

Telephone: +44 7811 26 77 52