Thursday, 29 May 2014



Colin Crumplin, Günther Herbst and Danny Rolph: curated by Paul Carey-Kent

Private View:  Friday 25 APRIL, 2014 - 6-9.30pm

Exhibition Dates:  26 April to 21 June, Thursday to Saturday, 12.30-5.30pm

Address: LUBOMIROV-EASTON, Enclave 8, 50 Resolution Way, SE8 4AL

Lubomirov-Easton is delighted to present three painters acclaimed for their dynamic engagement with abstraction in relation to the figurative.  There’s no need for a contemporary painter to ‘discover’ abstraction in the sense in which, for Kandinsky or Malevich, it was the logical end point in a journey which began in the world as observed and ended in an apparently contrasting absolute. All the same, the relationship of abstract paintings to reality remains a key part of their dynamic and interest. This show features three contrasting ways in which that relationship can operate.
The route most endorsed by past practice is from the world to abstraction.  Very often that’s linked to paring back and boiling down the teeming noumena  to a perceived purity, but Danny Rolph’s Mexico riffs on that multiplicity as it emerges from the world in two ways. First, in the personal history behind its conjunctions of dizzying geometries and spatial dynamics, which relate to his abiding interest in Modernist architecture and design; second, in the variety of representations collaged into its layering – here including wrestlers, shop signs, upended pop stars and a starry night – which give rise to, are connected by, and interact with, the painted abstract marks. Rolph moves from the world to abstraction – and back again.

Günther Herbst gives us abstraction in the world. He makes coloured geometric collages in which, though the borrowings are indirect, such predecessors as Mondrian. Judd and Kelly hover. He then paints those abstract forms into landscapes which themselves collage together various styles of mark-making so that the world appears infected by painterly technique. That stands in for social dislocation or the imperialist pretensions of western art and, by extension, the politics behind that.  Abstraction’s in the world, aesthetically and sociologically.

The rarest route is probably Colin Crumplin’s: his two part paintings reverse the usual process of abstracting from reality by taking a chance-driven abstract starting point and then – perhaps years later – finding something figurative in reality which matches it in some way. This builds the world’s unpredictability into the process and provides a dynamic and innovative way of staging modern painting’s typical contest between form and content. Travelling from abstraction to the world, he arrives at riots, flowers and anatomy…

Rolph, Herbst and Crumplin, then, all combine differing languages within single works in a post-modernist manner. All manner of mark-making covers the typically busy Rolph painting, supplemented by collaged elements in the Triplewall shown here, and all jostling for the same space. Herbst uses his languages more schematically within – but not necessarily between – paintings, choosing the style which he feels best suits particular elements: here it’s mostly Realist Mountains, expressionist seas, geometric abstract vehicles and Richter-blurred reflections. Crumplin adopts a more simply contrasted format: one half abstract, one half representational… only not quite so simple, as he makes us realise how each half is also present in the other.

Moreover, they all introduce a political dimension as they move into and out of abstraction. As Rachel Withers has put it, ‘Herbst self-consciously collides the antitheses of formalism and social commitment. Their resulting failure to synthesize, and the problems raised thereby, becomes the focus of the work’. Crumplin is increasingly drawn to newspapers as his image source, and has matched several ‘starts’ to fires – in war in Basra, riots in Tottenham, an oil field disaster: given the apparently subconscious nature of his process this could be seen as indicative of society’s underlying state. Rolph’s work might be described as ‘abstractions of everything’, so broad is his frame of reference: politics certainly feeds in along with, philosophy, cosmology, architecture and music     
Together, Crumplin, Herbst and Rolph demonstrate how abstraction can remain relevant today - through how it relates to, and is charged by, the world.



'Parrot Tulip', 2013 acrylic and oil paint on canvas - 125 x 147cm
What’s the basis of your work?

Typically, as here, my paintings over the past two decades are in two parts. I have consistently used chance in my working process for the initial 'starts' of each painting, the non-figurative part. I make groups of these starts, large and small, and at any time have 50 or 60 that I make photographs from and keep together as a kind of notebook where I look for images in the chance blots and stains. The second part of the paintings are made with a brush in oil paint on linen – slow materials developed to paint skin and atmospheric illusions. My concerns are our memory for images and our tendency and ability to picture.

How do you make a ‘start’?

I staple cotton duck to the floor – a double square – wet it and pour acrylic paint onto it. The paint is quite thick, so the mixing occurs on the cotton duck - the wetness facilitates that. I spread the paint quickly using my hand just to cover the surface of one half of the double square. Then I fold the other half of the canvas over and blind print it by wiping a piece of cardboard across the back. I open the canvas and without doing anything else, leave it to dry. 

'Spine', 2010 - 97 x 75 cm
You then use a photographic image which matches the start in some way. How does that come about?

That might be an image from my collection which is collated within categories which have become evident over time – injuries, fires, floods - or one that I need to find or take myself.

That use of chance has literary parallels such as Raymond Roussel and the Oulipo group of French writers. Is that relevant to you?

My interest in the French literature of chance goes back a long way. In 1977 I published ‘Hommage a Queneau’, which takes as its starting point his ‘Exercises in Style’ (the same anecdote told in 99 different ways) and applies it to drawings of a cup.

'Tottenham 2011', 2012 - 147 x 125 cm

How did you come to choose the image of fire in Tottenham?

I’ve worked more and more from press photographs in recent years. Aside from the political events, which I’ve wanted to touch on, the fact that newspapers now use colour means that we are forever presented with pictures of fires. 
'Deepwater Horizon',    2011     62x90 cm

There is quite a lot of violence in your work?

Yes, and it’s impossible not to think of those things as being interpreted and metaphoric. The shark bite painting puts me in mind of late medieval paintings of flayings, which are simultaneously horrendous and gorgeous in how they are painted. 

Do any particular artists influence you?

Early on I was influenced by Rheinhardt and Irwin and by the artists in Cage's circle - Rauschenberg, Johns – for their approach, and by many others who use chance: Morrellet, early Ellsworth Kelly. And I've always liked the work of Rothko, Louis, early Poons and early Olitski - but I can't make their kind of working decisions.

Colin Crumplin: (born Hertfordshire, 1946) taught at Bath Spa University, and lives in Bath. Solo shows include 'Paintings 1995 – 2005’   Six  Chapel  Row, Bath, 2005; ‘Paintings 1990-1997’,  John Hansard Gallery, Southampton, 1997; Todd Gallery, London, 1997; Ellipse Exhibitions / Evelyn de Beir, Brussels, Belgium, 1998

Geoges Perec's  A Void, 1969, as translated from the original French La Disparition by Gilbert Adair, is a 300-page French lipogrammatic novel, written entirely without using the letter 'e' (except for the author's e-heavy name), so applying an Oulipo constraint. Here's a paragraph:

Noon rings out. A wasp, making an ominous sound, a sound akin to a klaxon or a tocsin, flits about. Augustus, who has had a bad night, sits up blinking and purblind. Oh what was that word (is his thought) that ran through my brain all night, that idiotic word that, hard as I'd try to pun it down, was always just an inch or two out of my grasp - fowl or foul or Vow or Voyal? - a word which, by association, brought into play an incongruous mass and magma of nouns, idioms, slogans and sayings, a confusing, amorphous outpouring which I sought in vain to control or turn off but which wound around my mind a whirlwind of a cord, a whiplash of a cord, a cord that would split again and again, would knit again and again, of words without communication or any possibility of combination, words without pronunciation, signification or transcription but out of which, notwithstanding, was brought forth a flux, a continuous, compact and lucid flow: an intuition, a vacillating frisson of illumination as if caught in a flash of lightning or in a mist abruptly rising to unshroud an obvious sign - but a sign, alas, that would last an instant only to vanish for good.

Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style  (1947) is a collection of 99 retellings of the same banal story, each in a different style. The narrator gets on the bus, witnesses an altercation between a man with a long neck and funny hat and another passenger, and then sees the same person a couple of hours later in a busy square, with a friend who says his coat needs a new button... The 65th anniversary translation included this set theory version:

On the S bus, let us consider the set Ƨ of seated passengers and the set U of upright passengers.  At a particular stop is located the set P of people that are waiting.  Let C be the set of passengers that get on; this is a subset of P and is itself the union of the set Cʹ of passengers that remain on the platform and of the set C ̋ of those who go and sit down.  Demonstrate that the set C ̋ is empty.

H being the set of cool cats and {ɦ} the intersection of H and of Cʹ, reduced to a single element.  Following the surjection of the feet of ɦonto those of y (any element of Cʹ that differs from ɦ), the yield is the set W of words pronounced by the element ɦ.  Set C ̋  having become non-empty, demonstrate that it is composed of the single element ɦ.

Now let Pʹ equal the set of pedestrians to be found in front of the Gare Saint-Lazare, {ɦ, ɦʹ} the intersection of H and of Pʹ, B being the set of buttons on the overcoat belonging to ɦ, Bʹ the set of possible locations of said buttons according to ɦʹ, demonstrate that the injection of B into Bʹ is not a bijection.


Resolution, 2014  Acrylic on paper  310 x 410 mm

How would you describe your work?

I appropriate a language of history and contemporary painting practices and use these as a transparent medium in order to comment on issues relating to transience and ephemeral structures, and it is meant as a reminder that human habitats are built upon the wilderness and that our occupation of them is still precarious.

How did you arrive in London?

I was born in South Africa in 1963, and grew up in the suburbs of Pretoria during the era of apartheid. I left for Berlin in 1992, when my girlfriend obtained a job there, and moved to London in 1995.

How is your name pronounced?

My mum's side of the family is from German missionary stock and my father came from Dutch/French settlers - we were brought up at home, speaking German. I get called many different names, but the correct pronunciation is 'Howbst' which is the German for 'autumn'.

You became known for paintings derived from your photographs of homeless people’s shelters, but which incorporated motifs from abstract painting. How did those works come about?

What attracted me was that these makeshift structures were so incongruous with the rest of the city’s architecture. Then I started seeing this modernist grid in them, which gives the work a dignity - because my works are not ironic: I'm looking for a spirituality, which the modernist era of painting carries off really well. I choose cobalt blue, white and red - colours which Mondrian would have used, but also the colours of the virgin in Renaissance painting 

Do you yourself feel transient?

Definitely. Growing up in South Africa, I was aware of discrepancies in poverty and wealth, people living in really horrendous circumstances. When I started noticing the structures I may have been subconsciously influenced by how extreme poverty is so visible in South Africa. At one point I lived in a Johannesburg suburb which overlooked Alexandra Township – a vast landscape of shacks, covered in pollution.

Raft 3, 2014 Acrylic on paper, 220 x 300 mm (Collection of Ms Dolly Thompsett).
Your recent work often involves ships and boats. That seems to have originated in a painting of a homeless person’s barge on the Thames?

Yes, there’s a barge near Glover's Island, in Twickenham. A man had already lived in the structure for 17 years when I photographed it. Due to strong winds, the place got blown to pieces and was forever morphing into different shapes. That
shelter on water led to use of ship or raft as a carrier of influence and the vehicle to which you can attach your landscape. Juan Bolivar put it like this: ‘a fragmented Piet Mondrian transported into one of his own works like an unmanned raft left by modernism's drifting legacy’. 


What are the sources for your current work?

Mostly books: Paradise Lost, Heart of Darkness and The Fatal Impact: The Invasion of the South Pacific, 1767-1840 by Alan Moorehead, which tells the story of Imperial conquest of innocence; and the work of William Hodge, who travelled with Captain Cook and made paintings termed ‘geographical profiles’, which served the modern purpose of photographs in enabling features to be re-recognised. They provide the archetypally-styled mountains and glaciers which appear in the background of recent paintings.  I’m also interested in catastrophism, the story of the Fall, and by how the world was ruined after the flood – whether myth or not. 
The Ice Islands, 2014  Acrylic on paper 310 x 410 mm

How do you decide what style to paint the various elements in your work?

Just from what feels best: skies and seas respond to expressionist brushwork, structures to geometric abstraction, and reflections to a blur in the manner of Richter. It feels appropriate, when combining man with nature, to combine different styles. That all fits with suggesting the infection of one culture by another. 
Raft 4,2014 Acrylic on paper  310 x 410 mm

Günther Herbst: Born Pretoria, South Africa, 1963, lives in London and is represented by Gallery AOP, Johannesburg.  Selected  solo shows have been ‘The Man Who Wasn’t There’, Gallery AOP,  2012; and at One in the Other, London, 2007 and 2009.  

Cut up and reassembled images of paintings by Frank Stella, Untitled 1966, and Barnett Newman, Who’s afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue 1967, into possible ideas for rafts. 

Aircraft carrier Argus, 1918: Norman Wilkinson developed a scheme by camouflaging ships during World War one to protect them from German U boats. The purpose he claimed was to confuse rather than conceal, making it difficult to judge the distance and speed of the ships.

Small acrylic preparatory paintings on card. 

Working copy as used for 'Raft 4' of View of the Islands of Otaha (Taaha) and Bola Bola (Bora Bora) with Part of the Island of the island of Ulietea (Raiatea) from British Imperial landscapes of the Pacific: William Hodges 1773 (National Maritime Museum / MoD Art Collection)


  'Mexico', 2013, mixed media on Triplewall, 140x200cm.  

What are the Twinwall and Triplewall which you use? 

It’s an almost clear polycarbonate, mainly used for conservatories. I paint and collage on all the surfaces. The Triplewall has one layer either side of a fluting down the centre. The reason I started using that, rather than Twinwall, was that optically it shifts things round more and provides an extra level of obfuscation. 

What led to you using it? 

I was on a scholarship at the British School in Rome in 1998, and feeling frustrated at the lack of spatial dynamic in my paintings. Then some drawings I was working on were blown onto the floor and landed on their flip side. That interested me because it registered as the impression of the initial expression. I thought about using glass or Perspex to catch that in my paintings, but glass was too heavy and fragile and loaded with religious history, and Perspex bent too much. Then the Director of the British School suggested I go to a Roman hardware shop, and I knew instantly that Twinwall was right. It has a sort of tangible emptiness, and I liked its being an everyday industrial material.

How do your various strands of work relate to each other? 

Gradually over the years I’ve tried to bring the unusual spatial dynamics of the Triplewalls into the work on canvas. Obviously they do different things, as canvas absorbs the paint (though I then shine it up to give it an echo of the Triplewall), whereas it sits on the surface of the Triplewall with a more transgressive graffiti-like quality. But they do now bounce off and inform each other. In the same way I’ve been keen to bring collage aspects from my drawings into the Triplewall.  So the three strands of Triplewall, canvas and paper are in dialogue.

Mexico is very complex yet appears controlled. Was it pre-planned?

No. It’s from instinct informed by memories, no reference to photography. 90% is done fast, the last 10% is the tuning which creates what I sense is the right degree of disorder and also makes it more overtly pictorial. That 10% takes longer. 

Where do you find your collage material?

At least half is just found in the street… I like the idea of someone discarding something and I reclaim it to re-emerge elsewhere. I also visit car boot sales, and pick up books and photocopy elements from them.

What’s going on in ‘Mexico’?
The other side of world comes into this world and connects through how I look at it. There are shifts in space and scale, a sense of outer space, planet shapes, a brochure of Monet’s garden, a 1985 printer’s catalogue, West End stars dancing; an early photocopier which looks like a harpsichord, a classic design chair, a drain cover, a poster of a wrestler, given to me by a friend in Mexico – I often go to New Mexico and Texas. Paint scraped off with pins or hard brushes. I quote the idea of a frame in the manner of a literal quotation mark. I’ve used horizontal twin wall on front and triple wall on the back so we get the grid. There are lots of games – representations which start and finish across different levels – colour connections – lots of echoes. 

So there’s a sense in which your work tries to have it all? 

There are a lot of competing elements, yes, and that really excites me. My reading in astrophysics comes to mind. How do we make sense of the beginning of time?  That nanosecond before t = 0 interests me, when everything which will make up the universe is there together. I have no hierarchies.

Do you read a lot?

I’m always reading: 19th century ghost stories, philosophy, Marx, popular physics, phenomenology. Music also feeds in – experimental jazz, funk, late 70’s trance disco.

Danny Rolph: (born 1967) lives in London, and is represented by the Barbara Davis Gallery, Houston, USA.  His most recent solo shows have been  'Paradiso', Barbara Davis Gallery, 2014; 'atelier', ESAD, Grenoble, Valence, France;  'Duke of Burgundy', Barbara Davis Gallery; 'Kissing balloons in the jungle', Poppy Sebire Gallery, London.

Danny Rolph in the studio: photos by Stuart Hartley

 Credits / list of works (if finalised by 15 April)

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About Me

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Southampton, Hampshire, United Kingdom
I was in my leisure time Editor at Large of Art World magazine (which ran 2007-09) and now write freelance for such as Art Monthly, Frieze, Photomonitor, Elephant and Border Crossings. I have curated 20 shows during 2013-17 with more on the way. Going back a bit my main writing background is poetry. My day job is public sector financial management.