“What is the explanation behind man’s apparently senseless drive to become a painter, if it is not a challenge to the downfall of man himself and a statement too that leads back to the Garden of Eden?”
A PAINTED JOURNEY TO THE COUNTRY OF THREE
A lot rain has fallen on the fertile Garden of Eden of painting, since Maurice Denis, a disciple of Paul Gauguin and one of the main representatives of symbolism, brought us the first manifest of the Nabi style: Definition of Neo-Traditionalism (August 1890) his famous definition of painting:
“Remember that a painting, before being a battle horse, a nude woman or any other anecdote, is essentially a flat surface covered with colours brought together in a certain order.”
And a lot of rain has fallen because after many battles that have been won by that magic profession of lights and shadows that is painting – a chimerical and telluric commitment to represent, live, understand and (re)create the world through a handful of canvases, colours and shapes-, its full plenitude and subjecting to the rigid yoke of two dimensions, have fortunately and fully expired with the passing, weight and settling of time and space itself.Therefore, it is worth remembering how at the start of the eighties, and to a certain extent, as a kind of pictorial counterpoint to the familiar concept of “expanded sculpture” announced by Rosalind Krauss some years before, articles such as the Frenchman Daniel Buren put forward, through several pieces of writing and many pieces of his work, the idea of “expanded painting” as a way of furthering, and also understanding, the pictorial space beyond the strict limits of flat surfaces.
I think that Dennis Hollingsworth’s painting also takes part in this process of expansion, of not being subject to the two dimensions that should supposedly limit painting. By applying colour in a lean way, so generously, so stratified, and above all when that mechanical characteristic of depositing it as if it was balls of bumpy points, he undoubtedly starts the preparation for a visual journey in the search for the third dimension, expanding the skin of the canvas to convert it in a body.
Hollingsworth’s architectural studies that he carried out prior to studying the fine arts are evident in his work through an obvious, never better said, structural and tectonic contribution, which is manifested and can be read in the in spite of the apparent organicism, and the deceiving freedom of his compositions. In this way he applies a processing method that is both intuitive and measured at the same time (and in the same space). The technique alla prima that he uses permits a high level of freedom, almost improvisation, which, is at the same time balanced and “cooling” by means of carefully thought out and methodical initial planning. This is reminiscent of Braque, and it could be sad that our artist loves the rule that corrects emotion, but he also loves the emotion that corrects the rule…
This personal strategy he uses to deposit pictorial matter, mainly oil painting, thus constitutes one of the hallmarks of his most characteristic and recognisable visual identities. Paint is applied in thick, sumptuous coats that form a chance of chromatic deposits, built up over the epidermis of the canvas. Generous and fleshy crusts of colour and matter he uses to build some personal reliefs which, as we have said before, go beyond the 2-D limits to reach an authentic, expanded and sensorial citizenship within the Country of Three Dimensions. A three-dimensionality, practically sculptural. His paintings are reminiscent of pictorial landscapes (the flavour and roots of nature are well anchored in them) whose formal tension is created by establishing a proven dialogue, one that is never at ease, between the empty, silent spaces of the oasis of shapes (with a powerful and recurrent presence of elements from the genealogy of circles), between positive and negative, between relief and valleys, between randomness and order, between freedom and control.
It is because of that the alphabet of his painting should always begin with the letter “M” (em) for matter. A matter which, as stated previously, is presented as densely woven, vigorous, forming orthographic accidents on the surface of the paintings. Something, such as this, painting in this way becomes an exercise of will, not only visual, but also, and above all, a touchy and sensual exercise. Our eyes scan the surface of the paintings as if they were our fingertips, on an irregular and rugged journey. The view, once again a pilgrim traveller as the prolongation of our sense of touch (which for epicureans was nothing less than another sense of sight…). In this way, pictures become both object and subject of one’s sight at the same time, and also of other senses; they become a kind of wall that can be broken down, since it allows us to delve inside it and on the outside of its folds, its gaps of colour and light.
I think it is worth emphasising the physical and objective nature of his painting. Canvases become the subject, but also become pure object, a scope we can move in to and from which, perhaps, we can build our own existence. And that reminds me of Pollock’s words: “…I want to be closer, to become a part of the painting, to walk inside it, to work from all four sides and literally find myself inside the painting…”
In work like this, signed by the laws of grammar of pure painting, or, said in another way, debtor of the most morphological and least representational axis that constitute the essence of pictorial abstraction: shape, space, expression, gesture, composition, rhythm, matter and balance, the language of colour, applied through a number of wide chromatic ranges, it had to make its voice heard, as one of its main symbols of pictorial identity. A strong voice, but at the same time modulated, which becomes diversified through the different nuances and tones.
I am mainly talking about abstraction and the words of another painting come back to me, Gerhard Richter: “Abstract pictures visualise a reality that we cannot see or describe, but, however, we are able to reach the conclusion that it exists […] because abstract painting more clearly illustrates a possible explanation of the inexplicable…”. But, nevertheless, I do not want to forget to point out that along with this visualisation, “that we cannot see or describe”, the presence of other certain signs of references are also present in this work. Thus, the autonomous, organic shapes, free of the slavery of mimesis and of reproduction, combine with other items that do remind us of a certain figurative reality, nearly always marks abstracted from nature and from landscape.
But these exhibits also introduce work that catches my attention, and therefore I want it to catch yours, friend, reader / spectator, and that is the presence (I believe for the first time) of the verbal language of text that here it likewise acquires a visual language connotation: “Under the beach, the paving stones…”. Word and image, a thousand-year-old idyll, and fertile within the universal sphere of art.
San Lorenzo del Escorial, March 2011