- The Bindery
EXHIBITION AT THE BINDERY, 53 HATTON GARDEN, LONDON EN1 8HN
21 OCT – 2 DEC 2022
Aleph Contemporary’s exhibition, Field Notes, explores the resonances across the work of artists Anna van Oosterom, Jacopo Dal Bello and Andrew Hewish. Field notes are observations recorded ‘in the field’. These works are soundings of our times, they plunder sources using the language of collage to produce a collage of languages – written and visual. They produce for the viewer a world that is open and intriguing – from conversations overheard on the subway, text sliced from grand musings, glyphs and numbers dropped out of the everyday, marks from the masters and bits of canvas sewn together.
These elements are cast anew as striking visual works that are lyrical in their associations that speak in a new language from the old. These works provide a vital encounter for the viewer; observations from our world that through collaged irruptions of language allow a space of lyrical generative play and possibility. While some works in this exhibition are from direct observations, recordings or sensations in situ – recalling plein air practice – what binds the works in this exhibition is the play of language, a use of collage and the shared field of that play in the rectangle.
Van Oosterom sets a stage for the viewer, a filmic treatment using transfer from photographic images collated one by one on the page. These worlds are built slowly and carefully in response to a particular text. Rather than a build-up of glued cut-outs on the page, van Oosterom spends careful time, in the spirit of Rauschenberg, lovingly transferring the ink, or rubbing back the paper on which the borrowed image sits, such that the image sits as a ghostly and ephemeral presence on the page. These are not illustrations but rather follow an internal, felt logic. These are not here to be logically decoded, but rather the dissonance between text and image floats freely. Yet they are potent words, gathered as they are from listening in to conversations on the New York subway. These are words caught on the wind in the rush of the commute – snippets overheard and held close by van Oosterom for later use. They are the words of unknown travellers, recorded verbatim and given new life here. The effect is one of watching a curious film in an unknown language, where the sub-titles deepen the shadows rather than illuminate. These are the private dramas of strangers made strange.
Dal Bello, who currently lives and works in Berlin, was as a student in the studio of Hewish, called ‘The Multivalent Line’, at what was then the Sir John Cass School in London. It was there he began to develop plundering the variety of tropes that has become his mature style. The work isliterally sewn together, where different segments are attached to form the ground on which the paint, pencil, transfer and glued inclusions sit. This is painting on uncertain but pleasurable ground. He has literalised the process of ‘suturing’ – whereby elements provoke meaning or narrative by virtue of their proximity to each other. The instability of coherence/non- coherence of collage is exploited here by Dal Bello, made more so in the dynamics of his drawn or pictorial incidents versus the blank space of the compositions. Tangential nods to language theory, art history and forms of graphic notation are the building blocks of Dal Bello’s work – a detail from a commercial trade mark, intense pencil marks or a borrowed picture. The scribbles of Twombly or the splodges of Bacon – spotting these borrowings which take on a new life can be a pleasurable game in viewing Dal Bello’s work. The works achieve a distinct synthesis in their balance between the free language of drawing and the world of the picture.
Hewish’s series ‘One Liners’ makes explicit in the title an interest in line in the drawing context and implies a humorous mode – as with van Oosterom’s work the line of text is excerpted from its original context to float more freely and mysteriously alongside that of the image. If they form a documentation of the world redolent of those of a codex, encyclopaedia or archive entry, it is for a form of knowledge that remains shrouded. The specific cut in the line enhances an absurdist view, and a visual confusion is set up between the ink and graphite backdrop and the photogram inclusions. Hewish works in series, as part of a conceptual painting practice that attends to site, or the particularities or demands of the period in which the works are produced. A distinct visual language is established in each series. In terms of the other work presented here, Hewish was struck, as was the world, by the force of existential events of 2022. Rather than such events being a challenge to the making of art, these events formed a springboard for these works in the instance of Monet in 1916-17. Monet made his monumental Nymphéas works while his son was five miles away fighting in the terrible trench warfare of WWI. In response, Monet made works full of joy which would go on to establish the gestural language of post-war American painting after some of these works were shown in the USA. This then informs the work – the weight of the historical moments and the presence Monet’s gestures hold in painting’s possibilities. Monet’s work envisages the better part of ourselves in a difficult world. For Hewish’s practice attempts to produce works that lie consciously between painting as such, and experience.
These are field notes for our time. The question as what it is to record the world artistically is answered here with novel forms of notation that echo our lyrical grip on the nature of experience. These works do not defy meaning as much as expand the space of meaning in the way that art can. The lyrical function here sketches a deeper correspondence with our experience of the world than might a timeline on a social media feed. The logic of image, but not of illustration, restores something of the better part of ourselves beyond what technology, a selfie or the predictive text of our lives demands. In these works, language – visual and text – is manipulated as a raw material in the way paint pigment might be mulled and blended in the painter’s studio. The archival material sampled creates a drag between the now and the past but holding these and the disparate elements of the collage process held in suspension form part of the charge of the work for the viewer.
The work by the three artists here provides a vital encounter for the viewer – soundings from our world that through collaged irruptions of language allow a space of lyrical generative play and possibility.
~ Andrew Hewish
Andrew Hewish is a London-based contemporary artist and curator. He has exhibited (and his work is collected) internationally. He holds a PhD from the Royal College of Art (RCA) and is a Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at the School of Art, Architecture and Design (formerly the Sir John Cass School). He was awarded a British Empire Medal for his services to the arts in 2020 and is the founder of UK Charity: Centre for Recent Drawing.