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b-a-c-h #130, 2003, Charcoal on paper, 45 x 45 cm

Ray Malone

November 3rd - December 15th, 2007

'b-a-c-h' drawings

A series of drawings using a square, or nearly square, format and four related and/or contrasting 'lines' traversing the pictorial space horizontally.

The work results from a desire to find a meaningful way of drawing 'lines' without attachment or reference to any figure or object in the real world.

Such a line has an obvious musical equivalent in the note, or, more precisely, in the string of notes that make up, say, a melodic 'line' or theme or idea.

As Bach's music is a frequent accompaniment in the studio, it occurred to me to use the simple, symmetrical device of four lines traversing a square space.

This led to the possibility of potentially endless extension and elaboration, both of the lines themselves and their relationship to each other.

b-a-c-h #209, 2006, Charcoal on paper, 45 x 45 cm

The title is an indirect reference to the concept of the musical 'invention', an idea associated with Bach's compositions. According to German notation, where B is Bflat and H is Bnatural, it is possible to make a theme or figure out of the letters of his name—this would normally be written B-A-C-H, but I chose to use lower case so as not to imply any direct musical connotation.

'Kan’ei'

A series of drawings in charcoal on paper developed from a previous series using a square format and four related and/or contrasting lines traversing the pictorial space horizontally. The series title ‘b-a-c-h’ referred to the musical ‘invention’, a concept particularly associated with Bach. The series illustrated here refines the musical connection to the drawing of ‘patterns’ or ‘forms’ based on a variable, and predetermined, ‘stroke count’ similar to the counting of beats in music. The title in this case is the name of a 19th-century Japanese artist, the proportions of the drawings being taken from one of his screens.

 

Dimensional paintings

Dimension #24, 2004, Acryl on paper, 55 x 55 cm

There are two aspects to these paintings, implied in the title. The ‘dimensional’ aspect refers to the fixed dimensions both of the support itself, and the other elements - that is, the ‘border’, and the bands, of consistent width, variously deployed within the border. The ‘painting’ aspect refers to the application of colour. While essentially monochrome, the colour is applied in three tones, the central area being the darkest, the border the middle, and the bands the lightest tone. The irregular arrangement of the bands within the rigid frame of the square-within-a-square produces areas of high and low contrast so that the colour values vary across a range of shades that would not otherwise be visible. (This is the second series of a long-standing project exploring notions of the limit or periphery of the painted surface.)

The dimensional aspect: first, the support is square, which is mirrored or repeated by the central area, also square; second, the sides of central square are always equidistant from the sides of the support; and third, the area between the two, the ‘border’, is variously divided by bands of equal width. Therefore, though a fixed dimension, the border is the variable part.

The ‘painting’ aspect: the colour is, in one respect, constant (the paintings are essentially monochrome); however, the colour is applied in three shades, the central area being the darkest, the border the medium, and the bands the lightest.

Some thoughts on colour

Colour, if it is not repulsive, is seductive, either immediate or irresistible. It draws the eye to itself, fills it, flatters the most menial object, literally colours our response to any object, natural or man-made, flower or painting.

Dimension #28, 2006 Acryl om paper, 55 x 55 cm

For me, colours are simply colours; the fascination of yellow is its yellow-ness, that is, either its resistance to all that is not yellow, or its close-ness to not being yellow at all.

Colour, at its most fundamental, signals difference, identifies it, lays claim to identity itself. To set one tone beside the other is to raise questions, suggest uncertainties, prompt the eye to enquire, above all to set up subtle harmonies, vibrations of a strangely light, and at the same time, dense order.

Meridian painings

"... when there is talk of art, there is often somebody who does not really listen. More precisely: somebody who hears, listens, looks ... and then does not know what it was about."
(Translation by Rosmarie Waldrop)

This was said in a speech by Paul Celan on the occasion of receiving the Georg Büchner Prize in 1960.

I only quote from him, not to compare, but to explain. That is, to try to explain the title of these paintings. The speech has become known as “the Meridian”, because that is the concept that Celan finally arrives at to describe what he calls ‘the mystery of the encounter’, and to define the ‘place’ of poetry. And it is because of him that I choose to call these paintings, the paintings I am only beginning, "Meridian".

For him, that encounter was central to the practice of poetry, and for me it is a metaphor for all that takes place between the painting and the viewer. These are measured paintings, there is no pretence at boundlessness. Each represents a series of combinations in a precise, predetermined order: three tones of the one colour in bands of three different widths, or intervals. The series being static and rigidly delineated, wherein does the aesthetic reside if not in the viewing, and indeed in the viewer? That is, if the infinite exists for such paintings it does so only in the moment, or moments, of looking—just as God, for those who believe in him/her, can be said to exist at the moment of prayer, or the other to exist at the moment of our meeting, our ‘encounter’.

Meridian #307, 2007, Acryl on paper, 55 x 55 cm

The painting can only present itself; in this case it can only present the combinations in their apparently finite order. Whereas in music notes are recorded in the form of a system of notation, a painting is its own notation; and, whereas in music that notation must be performed to be heard as music, in painting there is no performance. There is only the fact of the painting, and the viewer. It is the viewer who must therefore ‘perform’ the painting, by his/her engagement, by the acuteness of his/her ability to read the ‘notes’—an ability akin to negotiating our environment, to the everyday skills we are hardly aware of.

For me, this is the meaning of the title, and the reason I take the liberty of not only quoting Paul Celan but borrowing a concept he journeyed towards during the course of his speech on that October day in 1960. I borrow it, because I believe it describes the nature of my own ‘encounter’ in the painting of these pieces, and because I hope it may define the ‘place’ the viewer might find in front of them.

Ray Malone, October 2007