Drawing in space

5 Feb

Bridget Riley‘s Composition with Circles 7 (2010), installed at the National Gallery, London, makes use of circles in a similar manner to Susan Hiller‘s Magic Lantern discussed in my previous article ‘Curated to Confuse?‘.  Riley and her assistants have drawn a series of meticulously accurate, large, monochromatic circles across the entirety of a vast gallery wall.  Like Hiller’s projection, they build up layers, overlapping and forming a series of Venn diagrams.  However, where Hiller explores colour, Riley explores ways of tesselating the circles, creating a vast array of different size and shape sections of overlap and space, whilst maintaining a fairly ordered overall plane.

Adrian Searle furthers the link between the two by saying this work of Riley’s “… seems to envelop you as if one were consumed by bubbles of light.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/video/2010/dec/15/bridget-riley-national-gallery-wall-circles).  However this work feels much more rigid and defined than flowing light.

This is an installation of drawing which looms over the viewer, affecting our perception of space.  It also physically alters the gallery walls in a museum that, due to its collection, usually retains works within a frame.  Hence it is an intervention in the space, much like Doris Salcedo‘s Shibboleth (2007), a crack in the floor of Tate Modern‘s Turbine Hall.

Besides this piece, it is a small exhibition and predominantly represent’s Riley’s current work, not necessarily her most interesting.  On the other hand it is interesting to see how her modern abstract style has been inspired by some more traditional sources.  A couple of Riley’s older Op Art style works are included, and these create the optical illusion of three dimensionality.  The exhibition Common Logic at IMT Gallery, however, exhibits a series of experiments which take drawing literally into three-dimensional space.

Within the Common Logic exhibition, Kate Terry‘s thread installation draws lines across the space and feels as though it references drawings made with the classic Spirograph toy.  In this exhibition however, the preparatory drawings seem to be more visually effective than the installation.  The thread used is of a fineness that makes it difficult to see the junctures between the primary coloured threads in this white space, but the colours could visually combine to form new tones according to how they are seen, as Hiller’s projected lights merge.  The thread is strung tautly across the room, cutting through the space diagonally, affecting it like Richard Serra‘s Titled Arc.  Walking into the gallery with condensation covered glasses from the cold, I came to within about an inch of walking into the work until I saw it directly in front of my eyes, then as visitors gathered they positioned themselves within the space according to their height.  Hence the work seems to have a feminist power over the viewer, but no real strength through its materiality and fragility.  The work also reminds of an egg slice and of the strings of a harp; one visitor even plucked a thread accidentally.


Rana Begum‘s work reminds of stair trims, there for health and safety reasons, one side dark grey and the other bright yellow, whilst also being like the double yellow lines, painted or drawn onto our tarmac streets.  Given there are eight this would amount to a serious parking offence and a colourful public art installation.  Begum’s objects, however, interact with their surrounding environment like Dan Flavin‘s fluorescent strip light sculptures.  The right-angled strips, lent horizontally against the wall and lit from directly above give off a yellow eminence from the luminous yellow sides, like drawing with a watercolour pencil and then wetting it to allow the pigment to flow.

Meanwhile Amy Stephens refers to drawing exercises carried out without taking your pencil off the paper, creating a three-dimensional drawing of a house from lines of timber marking out the roof and chimney particularly, and perhaps rooms and a fireplace, somewhat similar to that of Richard Deacon although less curvaceous.  Unfortunately, however, the quality of joints, which is main element of the construction of this piece, are disappointing poor, although it would have been impossible to import the work into the space whole.  Hence the piece is transformed into a rendition of substandard housing maintenance prevalent in rented accommodation.

Bridget Riley: Paintings and Related Works runs at the National Gallery, London until 22nd May 2011
Common Logic runs at IMT Gallery until 20th February.
Susan Hiller’s Magic Lantern is on show at Camden Arts Centre until 20th February and a solo show of her work is on at Tate Modern until 15th May.


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