Collectively titled Continuum In Symmetry, Marek Tobolewski's recent paintings and drawings present variations on taking a line for a distinctly worm-like walk. Subtle surfaces are worked and reworked to form a ground for linear improvisations that look like the rhythmic markings below the high tide line on a wet beach. Despite their apparent aesthetic gracefulness, there is something almost obsessive in these relentless organic abstractions.
One cannot but wonder at the artist's patience as he works with no end in sight to these seemingly aimless graphic meanderings. It is this very slight sense of unease that establishes a kind of psychological undertow.
Djanogly Art Gallery, to 13 Jun
Marek Tobolewski: Continuum in Symmetry
Djanogly Art Gallery, Nottingham | 8 May - 13 June 2010
Reviewed by Tom Hackett
There is always a jostle for position in any kind of art between broadly what you can refer to as its form, and then this other thing, its content. In essence what it is and what it might say, solicit or catalyse, in terms of some kind of a response. This is one of the very basics that an artist has to ponder when putting stuff out saucily into the world (to borrow from King Lear). This correlation can be easily spotted within narrative work, and is frequently impossible to avoid within work that is driven by the polemic. Often they get it wrong.
Then you get an abstract artist like Tobolewski, where form is content and content is not representation of thing, but is ‘thing’. Because of the fact that the idea of the liberation of form from depiction, is the best part of 100 years old, being an effective abstract artist today is a tough call. In this, the first major show of Tobolewski’s paintings in the UK for over a decade, the artist clearly rises to the challenge. He does this by producing a body of work that is embued with the sensual and evocative capacity, to pick you up and transport you into another, emphatically better perceptual territory, beyond the shiny wooden gallery floor on which you thought you were standing.
These meticulously crafted lines meander across canvas and paper like the very best of choreographed snail trails. They appear deceptively simple, but are painstakingly layered and gently intertwined to create deep and penetrating visual field which draw you ever inwards. With all the works on show, intrigue, ambiguity, and understatement are combined with colour and form to generate an immersive warmth and calm evocative in part of a protected state of pre natal suspension.
The more you look at them, the more these gently curving intersections of line start to propose multiple possibilities. They appear suggestive of the human body, both in its exterior outline and like internal anatomical images of convoluted veins and intestines. They also take you deeper inwards, simular in their amorphic sensibility to sub cellular microscopic imagery.
But and this in an important but. The lack of clear reference always stops you short of fixing your reading and before you know it you are drawing other associations. perhaps with landscape, or river systems as viewed from a plane and so your passage within the works continue without end.
It is this ability to take you, as a viewer on a visually transcendental journey that works so well for me, and that’s before you stop to consider the fact that these are extremely well executed paintings, done with, to use the Mike Kelley title: more love hours than can ever be repaid.
The mark of the author is quietly evidenced in all of the paintings and drawings on show. This significant and active ingredient, for me underpins the work and somehow adds to the overall jouissance beyond mere pleasure embedded within this dynamically evolved body of abstract painting.
A show for me, without question, well worth a visit.
Writer detail: Tom Hackett is an artist and lecturer
Venue detail: Djanogly Art Gallery, Lakeside Arts Centre University Park Nottingham NG7 2RD, www.lakesidearts.org.uk
Marek Tobolewski,'2LC SymM Prussian Blue on Cobalt', Oil on linen, 2010
review by Ruth Solomons
Marek's paintings are based on a particular sort of line that derives from drawing both in concept and through attention to placement upon surface: painted lines which relate directly to a mode of thinking that is particular to drawing, of gesture then decision then gesture, both disjointed and continuous.
With their fixed width and deliberated routings, Marek's carefully painted lines denote the use of a tool - in actuality a paintbrush. Yet they draw allusion to a physical sculpting from a machine-like tool which would produce such a uniform line. This quality is investigated in the hollowed negative line-networks in MDF and coloured acrylic shown along with the paintings. These demonstrate that Marek's compositional layering is evident even when all the lines are uniform in width and substance, through a sense of purposeful directionality. In these relief works the lines become visible through their absence as carved passages through material stuff. Yet each line is able to be read as distinct over-layered pathways in tangible visual space.
Marek's emphasis on drawing permeates the paintings, leaving traces of the decision-making process underlying each paintings' construction. Serial circular arcs imitate and perfect a natural curve of an artists' reach, with gestation periods between each decision point: like a time-line, accelerating and slowing. At times lines become dense: deliberated in twists and junctures. Restlessly fluctuating they give a feeling of lightness and air, a three-dimensional nest-space. Your eye dances with the changing directionality: parallel, divergent or convergent, implying perspective in silhouetted three-dimensional form. Your eye dances not just across the plane of the painting but also backwards and forwards in the three-dimensional area between you and the painting.
The nest-spaces are given form by their containment in the compositions. The whole wobbling ovoid network-objects are subject to a sense of compression from the heavy negative area around the outside. The large, weighted, outer areas allow the inner network-forms to floats loose. An after-image membrane seems to enclose the whole visual field, made further ambiguous through painterly layering and colour interactions across these thresholds.
In 2LC SymM Prussian Blue on Cobalt, Marek exploits the potential for our eyes to sense visual depth of space in colour resonance as well as in the linear wanderings of the painted forms. Within a very tight spectrum range, he combines contrasting hues to create sensory noise amid concurrent readings of solid/liquid/air. Blue makes a particular sort of space in the mind's eye, and here Marek exploits the richness and suggestiveness of blue while keeping the pigments as pure as possible. Mineral cobalt lies anchored in a solid half-submerged layer beneath ragged glazings of night-sky inky prussian's dense pigment suspended in its oily translucent medium-vehicle. Negative linen lines glow earthy-rich in peach-orange narrow wavering bands in complementary contrast to the heavy expanse of resonating blues. Undulating deep red arterial lines and buried seams of white bring the painting into vibrant and harmonious balance. Marek's method flutters between the seductive qualities of each pigment, while heeding an instinct for balance that leads to a harmonious marriage between their variations in translucency, intensity and material plasticity.
Continuum in Symmetry is a painting show that fits very securely into the realm of painterly painting, and showcases Marek's work as studio-based investigation into painting process: an artist's artist. Yet there is a generosity evident that resists definition as pure painting in a Greenbergian sense: a playfulness in the repetition of an ambiguous network motif that signposts distinct colours and distinct layers into an open field of visually enjoyable painted surface. Even the thinnest most tenuous faint lines stretch across the full picture plane, and so play an equal role; in analogy Marek's quiet paintings are indicative of a prevalent tendency towards honesty and beauty in painting now, away from showmanship, trickery and illusion.
Writer detail: Ruth Solomons is an artist based in London, currently living and working in Balfron Tower through the Bow Arts Trust live-work scheme.
Mauve on Grey by Marek Tobolewski
Liberatingly abstract, by Mark Patterson
ONE of the most common remarks Marek Tobolewski hears about his paintings is, "I like them, but I don't know why." Some people have called them "spaghetti-doodles" while others see recognisable shapes in his abstract, sinuous lines.
This is particularly true of his newer symmetrical drawings and paintings, many of which have gone on show in Tobolewski's new solo exhibition at Djanogly Art Gallery, his first in his Nottingham home town since 1994.
"People have said they see anatomical features and phallic symbolism in them," he says. "I always say 'you can read what you want into them'."
However, one thing Tobolewski's paintings are not are random doodles; they are meticulously planned in advance on paper using compasses and other draughtsman's tools.
The paintings themselves can then take up to a year to complete. Neither are they symbolic of anything in particular.
On the contrary, Tobolewski's artworks are liberatingly abstract, freeing the viewer from the obligation to locate a hidden story.
But nor should they be thought of as mere exercises in form and presentation. Tobolewski describes them as "cerebral" each painting being a variation in an endless experiment in what you can do with the most basic artistic statement there is a mark or line on a flat surface.
They are also surprisingly warm and sensual; the curves and lines themselves recall (for me) women's curves while, up close, the textures of different surface qualities are revealed: the grain of wood, linen, paper, grooves and indentations.
"I hope they take you on a journey," says Tobolewski.
"I'm not trying to get you to understand why I've made them. I think those are 'artists' questions' and I'm still trying to understand what they're about. But hopefully they do take you on some sort of narrative story."
Tobolewski (his parents are Polish) came to Nottingham from Brighton in the 1980s, helping to found the Oldknows Factory artists' studio complex.
When most of the studios were closed last year, he moved to CAN studio close to Sneinton market. However, after the current show at the Djanogly gallery was agreed, he was also offered a residency at the adjacent Lakeside Arts Centre and many of the symmetrical works currently on show are the result of this.
Tobolewski imposes strict rules of composition on himself: there are no straight lines; every line is part of a continuous circle and every line connects back with itself, even though parts of it disappear off the surface of the painting into a space that has to be imagined.
selected solo exhibitions:
2010 Perceived Symmetry - Djanogly Art Gallery, Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham
2009 PosNeg-Sym - Hive Gallery, Barnsley
selected group exhibitions
2009 BAF4 - Dome, Brighton
2008 Hive Gallery, Barnsley
Inaugural - C A N C A N project space, Nottingham
Last Call - Vinson Gallery Atlanta
BCAF - Battersea Arts Centre, London
ART DECADE - Vinson Gallery Atlanta
2007 Derby Open - Derby Museum & Art Gallery.
11th EMCAA - Djanogly Art Gallery, Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham
Spring Show - Friar Lane Gallery, Nottingham
2005 10th EMCAA - Djanogly Art Gallery, Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham
2004 Artexpo - Vinson Gallery, Atlanta, USA
Remote Drawing - Angel Row Gallery, Nottingham.
Virtual Collect 5 - Bridlesmith Gate Gallery, Nottingham
2003 Art for Life - Christies, London
9th EMCAA - Djanogly Art Gallery, Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham
2009-10 Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham
2006 Arts & Business - Art at The Arc -New Partners Award
2006 Continuum in Balance - Art at The Arc - Geldards LLP Law Firm, Nottingham