by Phil King
Studio Visit

Studio visits can be both unnerving and consoling experiences. Away from the intensity of art school studio visits, where looking itself is a pedagogical event, the experience of art in a studio setting has no clear goal. It is a form of sharing, a mutual discovery of problems, not for a tenable purpose but simply to provide a sense of mutual finding out, of experience itself. The artist can explain, guide even try and convince but they know that it is the work itself, a work that is often in a mutable condition, that is convincing. Or not. In the studio of accomplished artists there is an edge between their arts absolute nature and the visitor’s experience.

Simon Gales’s paintings take time. By saying this I deliberately desire to evoke a sense of removal, of taking away.

The paintings literally take time away. In his studio, in discussion, I begin to intuit that he actually achieves this removal of time in different ways. The work resists spectacle, offers another time and place apart the rush of contemporary states, a hard won margin noticed through a kind of resistant contemplation, a sort of impossible sovereignty.

Within their pictures, enact a certain control, a certain reduction of the world to a manageable history of their own making. Painting itself occurs in the drama between these two poles. Simon Gales's painting heightens and combines the different lights into an almost engineered unity.

The architecture of his work replaces painterly tectonics, the armature of classical western painting, with actual construction. He constructs an actual painterly field, wooden reliefs that speak of the purity of modern relief, of Ben Nicholson's solutions perhaps. These supports, paintings in themselves capture light freely, part of everyday days, nailed by artificial light, softened by the rise and fall of different daylights.

I think, I speculate, that it is patience, the control and use of time, the taking of time itself, that enables the signifying event of his painting, the painting of animals and figures across the carefully constructed and tended fields that he prepares. Fugitives that bring with them their own surrounding light and space, in the case of a bird literally stirring the represented air into forceful existence even as it leaves the picture behind.

Because Gales’s painting acknowledges the violence of the shuttered capture, the photo cliché as violent grasp, the arrest, and represents it mindfully across the light capturing surfaces he nurtures, it speaks of a certain impact even though that impact is softened in time, softened by the thoughtful stroke of the brush. Two coexistent spaces clash and yet that clash is sublimated, giving rise, in my mind, to a sublime impression of fluidity.

Time, in another time, was said to flow. Far from the catastrophic almost epileptic demands of contemporary existence, from its exclusive demands and divisions, we sense that time passes slowly and yet we rarely fall into that stream. These paintings, as painting does in its continual balance between surrender and control, allow access to something actuality and representation, they do so with a deceptively muted cymbal clash, each painting a moment of surprise, of relief, of humour in the corner of an eye.

Studio visits are uncanny experiences and take time to digest and process, words both fail there and break through.

Thoughts are both articulated and compromised, lost and found , they are put on edge, and it is later that the realisation that it is paintings basic forces at work, disruptive, unarguable and yet demanding of response, that creates and provokes thought itself, in yet another time.

Phil King 2014
Phil King is an artist and writer of numerous essays and a translator of Jean Genet’s “Studio of Giacometti” published by Grey Tiger Books 2014

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