Generally the overloading of references heaped upon a work of art belies their weak character. Oftentimes this is not the fault of the artist but the galleries and curators that surround them. I generally ignore any text associated with an exhibition, not out of badness, it’s just I love to see the work with my own eyes and frame of referencing. I did however – for one reason or another come across the Richard Gorman exhibition text for his new exhibition Kozo at Kerlin Gallery and I have to admit it was a revelation. On their website Kerlin espoused Gorman’s referencing of the renaissance paintings of Giovanni Bellini, Andrea Mantegna, Piero della Francesca, Japanese Ukiyo-e and Henri Matisse. Quite a list. Now I have to say that I do think the Ukiyo and Matisse references are misleading. Matisse often ripped and scissored his colour blocks letting them fall at will – the process revealing the composition to him. For me Gorman manages the line and shape of his work with microscopic precision; the format is mathematical, angular. Also Ukiyo-e imposes a cartoon character to the work which falls short of what the artist is about. Yet the galleries referencing of renaissance portraiture piqued my interest and looking at Bellini’s portrait of ‘The Doge Leonardo Loredan’ – always one of my favourite images; I saw exactly what they meant. The strong bisecting lines of Gorman’s work slice through the dense colour palette of their geometric components with a purpose of format that is clinical. As in Bellini, the line creates the character, and Gorman’s compositions are full of life and grandeur. Furthermore the dense areas of pigment in the artist’s gouaches, the centrality of image and the focus on shape all speck to the theory of art that the renaissance artists espoused. These smaller gouaches that fill one wall in single file are a joy. ‘All Wall’ is the largest of the works featured, combining paper-making technique with dye – the pigment this time immersed within the paper medium. For me the smaller gouaches win out; the strength of Gorman’s work is his defiant line and colour clarity. The diffusion of both these elements in ‘All Wall’ lost its purpose somewhat.
One never gets bored of Gorman’s work even though his style has remained steady, geometric in form and tympanic. He is also one of the only artists I can think of that manages to accurately (and amusingly) title his work; which considering the abstract nature of each is quite a feat.
The rhythm of the gouaches rebound throughout the space at Kerlin, each piece abounding with the witticism and gravity of their 14thcentury precursors. The exhibition closes on February 25th so make sure you see it.