The pleasurable new Minimalism

Posted by Joanna Chard on 27th September 2011

Huge black, iron doors; windowless, white, towering walls; minimal; clean. To enter the Wilkinson Gallery’s space—like many commercial galleries- you have to buzz. Once your presence is known, and that you wish to enter the hallowed ground of the Vyner Street art scene, the great doors are unlocked and in you step. Matt Calderwood, a 36 year-old London based artist, is currently exhibiting his most recent body of work titled ‘Full-Scale’, an interesting re-interpretation on 1960’s minimalism. At first, the works seem a bit dull, a bit derivative- black and white; repetitive, geometric shapes; stripped down. But on closer inspection, this aesthetic morphs into a constructivist, mathematical, minimalist hybrid. 

Installation view of Matt Calderwood’s ‘Full-Scale’

Taking single recurring elements of each of the imposing wooden sculptures placed in the central space of Wilkinson’s cavernous Lower Gallery and using them as printing blocks, Calderwood creates large two-dimensional prints that adorn the walls. In an inversion of the conventional process of production, the sculptures become the materials that create the blocky, geometric print design– which in turn, complete the development of the sculptures.

The interplay between the two and three-dimensional pieces is a satisfying one, and is one of the most interesting aspects of this exhibition; but each piece also possesses an autonomous pleasure. The white individual elements of the plywood sculptures are secured only by the weight of their elements, as defined by their specific compositional arrangements- meaning that edges balance precariously upon one another, one gentle nudge could topple all. The masculine, hard-lines and monochrome aesthetic play off the fragility of the individual balanced parts giving the works more depth than that of conventional minimalism. Consequently, ‘Full-Scale’ evokes an interesting observation upon totality and unison, with the added tension of gravity’s potential to reduce the sculptures into a pile of interestingly shaped plywood rubble. 

 

Minimalism re-defined: Angela de la Cruz’s ‘Deflated Yellow’

This recall to a minimalist past seems to be extremely current. Artists like Keith Coventry, Angela De La Cruz and Rise Art’s Alastair T. Willey have adopted the geometric and monochrome tendencies of their 1960’s counterparts. Works like Willey’s ‘Unknown Chelsea #2’ actually bare some resemblance to the works of Calderwood- blocky, repetitive angular shapes; architectural elements; close allusions to process. Unlike Calderwood’s wood block prints, Willey creates the elements within his compositions through photographing various overlooked architectural or decorative details, and by overlapping and merging them, producing a work that contains its own sculptural qualities. These abstracted, interlocking designs produce an interesting symmetry, the compositional layering of which is reliant on the vortex like placement of each individual element. 

Alastair T. Willey’s ‘Unknown Chelsea #2’

 

A new breed of minimalist sculpture and design has been born- one that combines with constructivist-style painting and mathematical accuracy to produce unified shapes, harmonious forms and a monochrome, masculine palette. Satisfyingly re-defining, these works are the secret love-child of two of the most interesting and progressive movements of the twentieth century, and what a beautiful child it is.

 

See the complete 'Unknown Chelsea' series on Alastair T. Willey's Rise Art channel.

Matt Calderwood's 'Full-Scale' exhbition runs until the 2nd of October at Wilkinson Gallery, London.