SATURDAY APRIL I6 2005
WEEKEND EXTRA - VISUAL ARTS
Going the mid-distance
I love those occasions when art makes the hair stand on the back of
the neck. That was the reaction I got standing in front of Black and
White Entity, part of Phillip McLeish's Recent Paintings at Galerie
Dusseldorf in Mosman Park.
This is one of those works you come across every now and then. It feels
like such a knowing work, like a metaphysical haiku that you know makes
sense but you can't get a tight grip on. I really enjoy this floating
sensation of pre-knowing.
Black and White Entity oscillates in front of the viewer like an aftersight
of the sun low on the ocean. It's that grey and purple burning blind
spot you get after you close your eyes, which seems to hover enigmatically
about an arm's length away in front of you.
But this mid-distant haze zone is always there, if you look up from
the paper, and just over your coffee you'll see all the dots, all the
molecules clashing into one another in the hope of making up some form
of trompe l'oeil that comes together as a material space for us to move
into. McLeish works in this mid-distant space where light has not yet
solidified to make illusion. The truth that we call the pictorial plane,
the plane of immanence, is still forming in McLeish's paintings and
his works don't attempt to offer another truth, they simply offer the
view of scorched and tired eyes trying to assimilate diffracted light
into understood forms.
This plane of immanence is wonderfully presented in works such as Sea
Rock and Hidden Light. The subdued, pulsating metallic grey and
purple hues combine in these paintings to present careful observations
of how soluble the forms around us really are.
To see the forms emerge but hold no solidity is a wonderful reminder
of our place within the scheme of being. How do we grasp our world,
are we a creator, observer or participant in the canvas put before us?
It would be remiss not mention McLeish's relationship to Howard Taylor:
McLeish was Taylor's studio assistant for some time and this influence
can be identified in some of the works.
But don't be misled by this relationship, McLeish has his own visual
language. And I think in his understanding of the play between optics,
light and what we convince ourselves we see he takes his painting into
some interesting and shifting ground.
Recent Paintings is a fantastic reinsertion of McLeish's work into the
public eye, a vivid translation of some years of thinking, observing
and meditation and I'm very much looking forward to the next instalment.
exhibition review by Ric Spencer - The West Australian - Saturday 16
April 2005 - as a pdf file