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My pre-view of 'The Viewer is Present"


It is not often we are encouraged to spend a decent length of time with an artwork. Today I had a foretaste of the upcoming Mounted ARI exhibition – The Viewer is Present – and that is exactly what this exhibition is about. I was invited to sit on a comfy lounge and select questions out of a box to see if this would enlarge the experience of viewing a particular piece of art. And it did, what a luxury it was to have an extended time, 30 minutes in my case, to immerse myself in one large rectangle. You may prefer to attend with a partner to bounce ideas off. It is not intimidating or demanding just fun and rewarding.

As I don’t want to give away the work because some people will be lucky enough to experience it during the course of the show the following may seem vague.

One of the questions I pulled from the box was as simple as ‘what do you see?’. Rather than thinking about the subject I started listing – marks, splodges, drips, simple colour scheme, variation in colour, energetic white squiggle, freedom, movement. The work, to me, was unmistakably an abstracted landscape. Was that obvious to others? I saw the outlines of rocks. The longer I looked the energy of the work receded and a stillness overpowered it. I saw an overlay and interplay of media. All these facets led me to think about activity and stillness coexisting in an ecosystem.

Another simple question was about the materials used. Once again, I started listing – ink, black, red ochre, charcoal, pastel, textured paper, water to dilute materials to create a variety of shades. Many of these had a question mark because the material is not always apparent. But I came to the conclusion that the essential ‘material’ was the artist. This may seem obvious but in this case the artist was active, in a Pollock like way. Media was thrown onto the paper. Splodges were flicked. The paper was tilted to create rivers of colour. Lines were added later responding to the already created shapes.

The question, “What will you remember about the work?”, I’m still pondering. What I am thinking about is the often-tenuous link between subject and artwork. When letting go of a subject and working towards abstraction, how long can you keep thinking of the work as a landscape? To the artist I think it is forever, but what about the viewer? To me this was a thoughtful, time honoured response to landscape. Will every viewer see it that way?

Hopefully, you will find the time one Sunday over the next couple of months to visit Mounted and take part in this energising exhibition.

Geoff Matthews

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