Geoffrey de Groen
Wally Cauruana, Caruana Fine Art
The Path to the Open
De Groen’s first exhibition at Annandale Galleries since 2011 features paintings that take the viewer to the edge of landscape. The double square format of these works is suggestive of the panoramic view, a view that is enhanced by the large scale of the paintings. As Paul McGillick writes in Silence into Light: The Life and Art of Geoffrey de Groen (forthcoming);
In (de Groen’s) paintings, the materiality of the paint and the texture of the canvas are in a constant tension with a deep space which defies definition or delineation. Forms constantly de-materialise only to re-form, while the relationships between those forms is also constantly shifting. In this universe, uncertainty is to be embraced as a rapturous and permanent condition.
This ‘rapturous’ uncertainty finds further expression in a number of individual canvases that reflect a departure in de Groen’s modus operandi. Rather than working on a series of paintings simultaneously, de Groen has adopted an individual approach. Paintings such as July 24 2012, 2012, and From March 12 2013 to April 26 2014, 2014, are not necessarily the result of one ‘sitting’ but of a intensive focus on the elaboration and resolution of a visual idea or ideas.
The exhibition does, however, include a selection of paintings from a series, referred to by de Groen as the Indigo series. The series is at once exceptional in de Groen’s œuvre yet characteristic of his ways of working, of thinking in paint. It is unusual in the sense that de Groen has restricted his palette to tones of indigo and white. The series is reminiscent of but different to the black on white painting/drawings of a decade ago. In the Indigo paintings, de Groen has applied very thin indigo oil in a sequence of palimpsests onto a polyester canvas surface, which over time has accumulated layers of accretions to create a ‘visual bite’. The shapes that emerge from the canvases are ambiguously suggestive, perhaps of human anatomy, of bone…. However the ‘Indigo’ series is also typical in that it is not the result of a linear progression of visual ideas, each painting elaborating or building on the previous. Rather, it is cyclical, expressive of a matrix of ideas that had preoccupied de Groen for several years. De Groen commenced the series in 2007. Abandoned paintings have been revisited and renewed – or completely altered – and new works have been created from bare canvas. The set was completed at the beginning of this year with January 15 2014, 2014.
In her essay Against Interpretation, Susan Sontag asserts that ‘Real art has the capacity to make us nervous.’ In the presence of de Groen’s paintings, it is a nervousness born not of anxiety: it is a frisson, a shimmer of excitement that takes us beyond quotidian life, of things that have names, and into a realm of pure visual sensation and emotion leading to a feeling of liberation in the discovery of something new.