text/catalogues exhibitions   collections   1990 - 96   1997 - 99 2000 - 17
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from Il Nuovo Contesta in Europa. Marconi. Milan. 1980: text by Fenella Crichton  









In one way or another the idea of copying has always been a foundation of visual art. And since Duchamp the idea of chance as an ordering principle has been a big gun in many artists' armoury. ColinCrumplin takes these two apparently antithetical notions and puts them together to make paintings. At its simplest level, he uses chance procedures to arrive at a series of marks which he then copies back again. But in practice the process is not that cut and dried, as ideas about chance need to be developed within an ordered framework.

In his early pierced constructions he used chance as a means of extending a cognitive game over a number of surfaces. It became a method for juxtaposing one set of drilled holes with another set plotted on an orthogonal grid. But already at this point he was using a number of the strategies (mirror images,rotation, direct copies) which are employed in the recent paintings. A little later he took single drawings, again based on chance, and used them to give rise to two or three objects which were not related to each other in any obvious way. These hand sized coloured wall ojects were an attempt to move from a kind of imageless worl towards a way of making unpredictable forms. The 'concidence' paintings are more like these. In them he sets up determining processes which establish the sequence of the colour and the location of the parts which have been copied. But the precise placing of the colour and the marks has become obvious only during the couse of the painting. And in each case the distribution is considered complete only when one area has overlaid another. Frequently the paintings are made in pairs.

They display the artist's curiosity in the different characters of the marks which emerge after apparently identical procedures have been carried out. There is no improvisation.

In all the paintings copying and re-treating the surface inevitably emphasises the way in which the copy has been made, juxtaposing fast and slow marks, and focussing attention on the fortuitous aspects of the quickly laid paint. In most of the recent paintings the colours have been limited to red, yellow and blue, or black and white. These colours have simply been folded between canvas or boards and spread by hand. In this way any obvious symmetry has been broken, whilst leaving a clue. The second and separate stage of these 'spread' and 'likeness' paintings is to select the parts for copying and then find the locations for these additions, which must be fixed in relation to the format of the work. This way of working will probably entail several false starts. Even when nearing completion a painting may have to be begun again, because the reworking may seem too obvious or forced. As the paintings have become more allusive or redolent he has used tighter procedures and fewer colours in order to avoid manipulating the allusions or ' conjouring'. None of the recent paintings are large: many are very small.

And so what happens when we look at a painting by Colin Crumplin? Certainly we respond to it as a painting and it is only later that our minds take over from our senses and begin to pick out the correspondances and differences between each side. And the fact that the physicality of the paint has been emphasised by the action of spreading the colours does set up references to the work of other painters. A slight smile perhaps? The paintings definitely make plain the contradictions between the supposedly intuitive process of handling colour as a painter and the laborious process of copying the results. In all the paintings Crumplin has provided himself with his own subject matter. He unfolds the process, replacing the symbolic aspect of abstract art by an awareness that a sequence of events has been broken down and analysed. For as he says “Paintings are metaphoric in their processes and structures and in the kind of attention the imply”.