Naum Gabo at Tate St Ives 2020

Naum Gabo at Tate St Ives 2020

The Naum Gabo exhibit at Tate St Ives started in March this year and has been extended to run until this September. I went along in early March and here are my takeaway impressions and some photos of what you might expect if you have a chance to visit.

We are so lucky in Cornwall not just to have an amazing local wealth of creative and artistic talent locally, and an immense history of modern art in the area, but also to have facilities like Tate St Ives to visit ‘on a rainy day’, to stretch the mind, educate and inform us without even leaving the Duchy (County to you and me!).

When the Naum Gabo exhibition in St Ives started in early spring I went along with my (slightly short attention span and tantruming throughout the exhibit) son to take it in.

My visit was, as such, quite short and so will be the information in this blog as a result, but short turned out to be very sweet. I found this was an exhibition I could go to see, learn and enjoy immensely, because the work here is very fast to comprehend and enjoy. Even if you look at it in amazement for the sculptural skill, visual impact, mathematical precision and calculations, or, as I did, the complete surprise surrounding the manufacturing techniques available in the era, you can be impressed by the forethought and modernity of it that still makes it feel futuristic and timeless today.

 

His work combined geometric abstraction with a dynamic organization of form in small reliefs and constructions, monumental public sculpture and pioneering kinetic works that assimilated new materials such as nylon, wire, lucite and semi-transparent materials, glass and metal.

Two preoccupations, unique to Gabo, were his interest in representing negative space—”released from any closed volume” or mass—and time. He famously explored the former idea in his Linear Construction works (1942-1971)—used nylon filament to create voids or interior spaces as “concrete” as the elements of solid mass

Source: Tate/ Wikipedia

What I enjoyed about Naum Gabo: Constructions for Real Life.

The first extensive presentation of Naum Gabo’s sculptures, paintings, drawings and architectural designs to be held in the UK for over 30 years

Tate St Ives

I didn’t know that Naum Gabo had lived in Carbis Bay during WWII and been considered one of the St Ives Artists. This felt great to me as it drew a link for me between the location in which I now live. I have a pull towards the geometric visual style in my paintings, and the relationship of the three dimensionality in this sculptural work that resonates with the three dimensional direction I am currently taking in my own work. I could feel a connection with the sculptures and plans. I can feel the organic

I made a mental note to myself to look up: Hyperbolic parabaloid, tensegrity structure and history plastic manufacturing (although these days I’m researching more into plastics re-use)… and you might add to that Constructivism (and give that to your child to do as homework for the school holidays!).

I couldn’t believe how well some of the pieces have survived – the geometric acrylic sheet sculptures that have remained in immaculate condition are nearly 100 years old. You could be mistaken for thinking they were made in the 1970s, influenced by Star Wars or some other space odyssey, but in fact perhaps the reverse is true, perhaps films and architecture drew on the work of Naum Gabo as the innovator.

The precision of the hyperbolic paraboloids, the mathematical calculations that went into them and the precise execution of the pieces. The hyperbolic paraboloids make for beautiful sculptures which are perfectly hand tensioned, each string or wire having the same degree of tension.

 

For me this is a stunning exhibition, beautifully presented, amazingly well preserved and extremely educational and inspirational. If a 3 year old can lie on the floor having a tantrum because they don’t want to leave, that’s a good sign for taking older kids or the rest of your family along.


Latest painting, May 2020 - Untitled

Untitled – [Red stripe with white and pale yellow pastel layers].

I have just completed this painting, it went on hold during lockdown and so the latest layers went on this week.

I have been trying to articulate how some of the transparencies I created on the ply box would translate onto canvas variations. The canvases I order are primed with a white primer, I don’t use rabbit skin glue because I refuse to be involved in animal cruelty as a consumer. So until I find an alternative, this gives me some limitations on how I use the paint when I translate it to canvas. There needs to be an addition of a colour to give the white transparencies something to show up against. The layers in this painting are extremely delicate and hard to photograph to show correctly and the studio lighting is overhead so that makes this task harder.

Hence I have chosen a pastel yellow made from combining fluorescent yellow and white. It’s become an essential part of the painting, not just a layer to form the underlying structure, but also a divider between two layers of ‘leaves’ of transparencies.

There is a rhythm througb the layers from canvas to the upper layers, a sequencing. The layers move outwards / forwards from the base canvas layer through pastel yellow, then white then yellow, they are intersected by the almost three dimensional red line (which itself wraps around the canvas and onto the sides) and the layering of white continues on top of this to seal it in.

If this were expanded out three dimensionally as panels they would be delicate, soft sheets. You could imagine walking through hanging layers or planes of space.

Around the edge to the top right there is a red triangle ‘tag’ device that would link this painting to the next, it’s a feature that has come from the previous studies on ply and the box where the elements of the paintings touch together.

All images © Trudie Moore

© Trudie Moore 2020
Current themes: transparencies, opacities, paint edges, material performance, three dimensional planes, lightness and freshness of colour, purity and expansion to create space.

Barbara Hepworth

Transparencies and subtleties in my latest painting.

I’m in the process of developing a bigger, three dimensional body of work that expands planes and dimensions within my paintings. Materials are important to me, as much as colour and so I am investigating how the two work together to ensure the surface has an importance in the piece.

A piece I completed around Christmas starts to move into a much more three dimensional space. I enjoy working with materials that have a character of their own which brings a deeper concentration to the planes within the work. Ply has proved to be not just an appealing material with the natural wood grain contrasting with the plasticity and synthetic surface and colour of the paint, but it’s also a good, resistant and smooth surface that gives clean edges and sharp lines and a smoother surface to the paint.

So this has opened up for me various avenues I am exploring, how ideas translate both onto canvas and ply (and other potential materials) and how the elements within the paint itself work with the surface.

In terms of the paint application, there’s an ability with acrylic to create super sheer, delicate layers that can increase and increase in density and be built up to an almost plastic layer which sits elevated on the surface

Untitled [Three dimensional box in ply] .

Amplifying the surface more extremely is an experiment I have been making. My deep frame canvases haven’t been deep enough to carry out the ideas I have been trying over the years and so this three dimensional box is the substantial iteration of that. From the smaller preceding ply studies there were planes of colour that were moving across. This is the next step on where the elements go around the sides and over the top – an element of wrapping the object as well as unfolding around it.

There is a stage on from this of exploring both ‘the material of the canvas’ and ‘the material of the paint’ as separate yet combined elements which constitute the painting.

 

All images © Trudie Moore

Supporting studies .

The studies below experiment with concepts in the pieces above, some are tests, some are works in their own right.

Alongside my fine art practice I undertake commissions and sell existing work. You can find out more here, or learn about the Artist Support Pledge.

Commissions

Scaling up and expanding

Sometimes working on multiple small paintings at once leads to results that require a little expansion - to further explore something to see how it might work if the areas and proportions changed.

I've always enjoyed large scale paintings, my work generally lends itself to a more ambitious scale rather than being confined into smaller dimensions, but smaller works do help to create a volume of ideas and exploration.

This is how a few of my recent big canvases started out. I scaled this smaller piece up to a really big painting as I could see the capacity it had that would lend itself to a bigger expanse.

The detail of the ‘balance’ (the linking of elements), the semi-opaque white as a leading element to this piece, are favourite points for me.

I had to scale the piece from rectangular portrait dimensions to square and devise how the colours would work on a white primed canvas when the background wasn’t a neutral base of ply.

With painting onto the white primer there’s a need to cover the whole surface, unlike with the ply, which means all of the painted shapes become more as one, rather than benefiting from the natural way the ply becomes visually, and tangibly another plane.

With the ply it’s more obvious that the surface is separate and the paint sits on top of it. With a canvas this is less so the case. And then there’s an element of illusion in the two dimensional effect as well where just by adding a painted colour, it changes the planes.

 

Yellow and white abstract.

This painting is another large scale translation onto square canvas from one of the smaller studies on ply that I did.

The asymmetric composition and diagonal lines with linked elements are where I feel the flow with this, as well as the introduction on this larger piece of the red triangle 🔺 contrasting with the subtle green and white, yet linking across to the fluorescent yellow.

As with the other large painting that evolved this way, there were changed and adaptations I made to transfer to a white background (primes canvas) and the larger, square format.

Now having lived with it for some while, and having progressed other pieces I’m eager to add something, another element, that was never a part of the plan when I started.

So you could say that this piece has taken almost 2 years to do!


Painting on plywood

A lot of my recent abstract paintings are on plywood. There's something architectural about them, it feels as though I can expand outwards from the surface. I feel as though that surface can layer with others. The ply gives me a really solid and resistant base whereas canvas gives and feels more fragile.

This has become something of a trend for me. Traditionally I've always used canvas - high-grade artists canvas on bespoke frames. But not as of the last few years.

Modern acrylic paints have a range of abilities and very satisfyingly they suit ply, and ply works well with my hard-edged geometric lines. The paint goes on super smoothly and the edges are much cleaner. I've been working with the ripples in the wood to help determine which areas of the surface I want to 'save' and which I want to obscure. This sometimes dictates the composition which gives me restrictions I have to work within - external controls if you like - of which I help to make and guide the decision.

Here are a few medium-sized pieces from 2015. There is some structure, there are divisions, there are omissions to the surface.