In nature, light creates the color. In the picture, color creates the light.?
The “mesopic” state marks the transition between the cones and rods in the internal architecture of the eye. As this exchange occurs amidst waning light the more sensitive rods come to the fore allowing a new, heightened receptivity to colour.
Like fast twitch fibres that allow an athlete to run fast, these cones and rods may be unevenly distributed amongst us. Whatever the science of this, the artists in this exhibition seem to be blessed with a hypersensitivity to the dance between colour and light that occurs on the cusp of darkness.
Winston Roeth has been described as one of the finest “colour painters” in America. Heaven help me I’ve just said it again, and I know he will blanch at that description, because for Roeth his patient endeavours are far less about colour than they are about light. Colour assists him in measuring its presence, to feel its meaning.
Helmut Federle has long been a painter of northern European light – more dusky Corot than Vermeer – Federle paints the brooding tones of late autumn, tones that depend on a reduced temperature and a peaty scent. As the light fades and the visible margin narrows he offers a heightened sensitivity wrapped in the poetry of transience.
Matthew Allen has forsaken the antipodean light of his childhood for the bracing “koel” of Amsterdam. Along with that shift in temperature comes an inevitable amendment to light. In recent years Allen has focused almost entirely on making exquisite polished graphite panels that celebrate lights’ relentless flux. In Evenfall we see Allen adding panels of monochrome colour. It is as if his southern eyes have been recalibrating, so that colour is newly visible, albeit under the quieter conditions of his new landscape.
Ceara Metlikovec’s vast oscillating drawings record a deeper vibration of energy. Her choice of graphite is pragmatic, but as a material, its grainy residue shimmers in available light and this feels crucial. That we regularly describe the strength or weakness of life itself in terms of light acknowledges its symbolic core. Metlikovec’s drawings pulse and flicker as the vertical bands appear to migrate back and forth across the composition and in Maya 4 we see the composition bookended by dusk moving into night.
Coen Young’s group Studies for a Mirror now form a substantial eulogy to transience. Their behaviour as wilfully flawed mirrors that invite colour, light and the viewer into their body, only to let them go, is fundamental to their existential ambition. Their responsiveness to light is extreme, moving from shimmery and buoyant to gloaming and intent.
Gunter Umberg’s black Untitled monochromes appear to record the faintest signal of light. His paintings are thick with lights absence. Amidst all this annulling of “radiance” we seem to be witnessing a negative registration of light. Umberg’s paintings are to light what alkaline is to acid – the point at which absence overwhelms presence, where vision slows down so profoundly, all of the eyes “rods” are utilised, so that we are re-sensitised and invited to feel.